As state’s finances sink, anti-tax group lets barbs, blame fly

Jim Tobin, TUA's founder and president, speaks at a Wednesday press conference announcing the TUA's annual pension report.

By Thomas Vogel

Taxpayers United of America President Jim Tobin called Wednesday for Illinois taxpayers to oust Speaker of the House Michael Madigan in the upcoming March primary.

As lawmakers continue to grapple with the state’s pension system, which currently has more than $100 million in underfunded obligations, the TUA released its annual analysis of the Illinois’ Teachers’ Retirement System, tabulating the top 200 pension for former state teachers.

“He’s the biggest problem we have in this state,” Tobin said, referring to Madigan. “He’s the biggest single enemy of Illinois taxpayers.”

Madigan, along with the Democratic supermajority in Springfield, and Gov. Bruce Rauner, who Tobin supports, continue to spar over the state’s financial situation.

Madigan has represented the 22nd District on Chicago’s South Side for 45 years but faces an up-start primary challenger, Jason Gonzalez, 41, a Harvard-educated, first-time candidate. Although the TUA does support candidates, the organization has not endorsed Gonzalez.

Tobin said taxpayer anger has existed for sometime, but incumbents like Madigan have remained in office because no viable opposition has emerged. Tobin said he hopes Gonzalez can finally unseat Madigan.

“Boss Madigan has had the Illinois taxpayers in his death grip for far too long,” Tobin said. “There’s no accountability.”

Tobin has his own critics, too.

“Mr.Tobin’s opinions of TRS and other state government agencies have been consistently incorrect for at least 30 years,” David Urbanek, spokesman for the Teachers’ Retirement System wrote in an email. “His criticisms are false and without merit.”

TUA has compiled the annual list for the last decade. Tobin criticized teachers for collecting substantial pension payments and called for Illinois to adopt similar reforms as other states, including Arizona and Wisconsin.

The highest-compensated teacher on the 2016 list is Lawrence Wyllie, a 56-year veteran of Lincoln Way Community High School in New Lennox. Wyllie’s annual pension is about $312,000.

The average annual compensation for the top 10 teachers on the list is $289,900.

The Illinois primary is set for March 15, 2016.

Photo at top: Jim Tobin, TUA’s founder and president, speaks at a Wednesday press conference announcing the TUA’s annual pension report. (Thomas Vogel/MEDILL)