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McConnaughay voluntarily turns down pension

GENEVA – One of Kane County’s newest state lawmakers has joined the ranks of legislators turning down their pensions.

Monday evening, state Sen. Karen McConnaughay, R-South Elgin, announced in a statement released by her office that she has “voluntarily turned down the legislative pension offered to members of the [Illinois] General Assembly.”

McConnaughay was elected in November and began serving in the state Senate in January, representing the 33rd District, which includes western portions of the Tri-Cities and much of northern and western Kane County.

McConnaughay had served as County Board chairman for eight years prior, opting not to seek re-election in 2012 to pursue the state legislative office. As an elected official serving two decades in Kane County government, McConnaughay is poised to collect a local government pension.

In forgoing her legislative pension, McConnaughay is one of about two dozen Illinois lawmakers who have opted out of a legislative pension after scrutiny of the state’s troubled public employee pension systems has increased.

Ted Dabrowski, vice president of policy for the Illinois Policy Institute, a free market advocacy group that has pushed for pension reform for years, said the institute applauds McConnaughay and other state lawmakers in forgoing a legislative pension.

“It’s a great message these freshmen are sending,” Dabrowski said.

He said it also indicates that lawmakers believe the pension system is broken beyond a short-term fix – and that’s regardless of whether the lawmakers support reforms the institute believes are necessary.

Dabrowski noted lawmakers participating in the legislative pension system are required to contribute 11.5 percent of their salary each year to their pensions.

“That’s a pretty big chunk of their salary,” Dabrowski said. “And it raises a big question: Would you want to put your money into a black hole?”

In her statement, McConnaughay said pension reform is among her “top priorities” in Springfield.

However, she noted that a county pension already awaits her.

“As someone who is already eligible for a pension after 20 years of service in county government, I do not believe it is appropriate to receive two pensions,” McConnaughay said.

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