SPRINGFIELD -- It's hard to feel sorry for Gordon Maag.|
The 61-year-old state retiree is pulling in an annual pension of $98,696 -- but he is still suing the state for more.
In addition to the hefty pension he began collecting at age 55 and his annual guaranteed cost of living adjustments, he believes he is entitled to free health insurance for life.
In June, Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation which calls for requiring retired state employees, university workers, lawmakers and judges to begin paying premiums for state health insurance.
It's the state's first baby step toward being a bit more austere with public employee benefits.
Mind you, no one is asking all of these retirees to carry all of the freight for their health insurance. The cash-strapped state is just asking them to pay a portion of the premium.
Nothing doing, says Maag, who was the first retiree to file a lawsuit.
According to news accounts, the retired judge contends the new law "abolishes free health insurance to Illinois retirees who were and are entitled to free health insurance on account of working for the state for20 or more years of service, or, in the case of retired legislators, four years, and in the case of retired judges, six years."
You read that right, he contends it is unconstitutional for the state to ask retirees to make do with less. In fact, he says they are entitled.
Never mind that most of us in the private sector have felt the sting of paying more for our insurance. And please forget that Maag in retirement makes more than double what most working Illinoisans earn.
He says he is entitled.
In fact, if Maag has his way, those working Illinoisans will not only be footing the bill for their own retirements and their own health insurance, but also for his -- and every other state retiree, as well.
In fact, Maag is hoping other retirees will join his lawsuit.
At first blush, one might wonder why on earth the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit would be someone pulling in almost a six-digit pension. After all, that's not someone who is going to draw a whole lot of public sympathy. But this isn't a case that will be decided by the public.
It will be decided by judges -- and ultimately by appellate judges.
And there is the rub.
Maag is asking his former colleagues on the bench not only to rule in his favor but in their own self-interest. After all, judges are public employees -- just like state university professors, prison guards and bureaucrats.
And judges will decide whether the proposed cutbacks in pensions and retiree health care benefits are constitutional.
A ruling for Maag, will benefit not only the plaintiff, but the judges themselves. If they rule for Maag, they will be ensuring that they will have free health insurance in their own retirement.
Let's hope they set their own self-interest aside.
But it's Illinois, don't bet on it.
Scott Reeder is an Illinois Statehouse reporter.
Moline, IL Details
|(More Print Ads)|