If the word “lobbyist” brings to mind someone working against the public interest, listen closely: Illinois is one of at least 20 states where private lobbyists can collect public pensions. According to an investigation released this week by the Associated Press, decades-old laws allow lobbyists who represent associations of states, counties, cities and school boards to be eligible for pensions.
The story comes as states across the country are weighing not whether to cut public worker pensions, but by how much. In Illinois, a special legislative panel is meeting to discuss changes to state pensions that may include ending automatic and inflation adjusted cost-of-living increases.
Unlike state workers, the AP story reports, associations that employ lobbyists don’t have to comply with salary restrictions, which could mean larger retirement benefits. One critic of the pension benefits for lobbyists told the AP that it was hypocritical for lobbyists to be receiving fully funded state pensions when they are “pushing austerity and benefit cuts.”
Things may be starting to change, spurred by, among other things, the realization that some lobbyists may be actively working against the interests of a state’s residents. Illinois is “considering” legislation on removing lobbyists from the public pension rolls, the AP reported, though a search of the Illinois General Assembly page was not able to locate draft legislation on the topic.
Do you think lobbyists employed by state, county, city or school board associations should be eligible for public pensions?