SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WTVO) — An Illinois lawmaker is warning that property taxes could “go to Mars” if teacher pension costs aren’t addressed.

According to the Center Square, Rep. Steven Reick (R-Woodstock) said if unfunded liabilities in the pension system fall on school districts to pay, Illinois residents will see an increase.

“If we wait until 100,000 of those 144,000 [retired teachers] are coming screaming at our doors saying, ‘hey, I want my money,'” Reick said. “If it all falls on local school districts, our property taxes are going to go straight to Mars.”

The Illinois House Personnel and Pensions Committee met with the Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System on Thursday and learned that there is currently an unfunded pension liability of $80.6 billion, an increase of .85% since 2021.

The committee asked TRS representative Andrew Bodewes which taxing body is responsible for covering the unfunded pension liabilities, to which he answered, “We have sort of a weird bifurcated definition of an employer where it is sometimes kind of the state and sometimes the school district when we are talking about employment security.”

“We have 144,000 teachers who are going to be affected by this ultimately, and the sooner we get to an answer on this, the better off we will be,” Reick said. 

Illinois teacher pension system is the 42nd largest in the United States. Currently, Illinois residents pay the 2nd highest property taxes in the country.