SPRINGFIELD -- State Rep. Rich Brauer, R-Springfield, is calling for the creation of a new constitutional office to get “partisan politics” out of Illinois’ five pension systems.

SPRINGFIELD -- State Rep. Rich Brauer, R-Springfield, is calling for the creation of a new constitutional office to get “partisan politics” out of Illinois’ five pension systems.

Modeling the new office after that of the auditor general, Brauer said the actuary general would do the calculations involved with figuring out how much the state owes to the pension systems.

While each of the five pension systems has its own actuary, Brauer said an outside agency examining the pensions would be free of political pressure.

“There’s political pressure you don’t see with those numbers,” Brauer said. When asked, Brauer said he could not name a particular incident in which he believes something has been hidden from the General Assembly and the public.

But Brauer did mention the recent controversy at the city of Springfield over whether the city would pay for health insurance coverage for partners of city workers in civil unions.

An actuary hired through the city’s Joint Labor/Management Health Care Committee originally estimated the cost of providing benefits for civil union couples at $725,000 annually. Critics said the figure was out of whack because it made poor assumptions about how many city workers would enter in to civil unions and how many would abuse them by entering into a civil union with a domestic partner just to get health benefits.

The numbers were re-examined and the estimate lowered to $66,936.

Brauer said that was an example of how political pressure can affect the numbers.

David Urbanek, spokesman for the Teachers’ Retirement System, said the actuaries his system employs—and their findings—are reviewed every year by the Illinois auditor general. It’s “vital” to do so when dealing with the amount of money the pensions concern, Urbanek said.

Urbanek said he understands Brauer’s concerns, but thinks misunderstandings contribute to questions about how pension-system actuaries figure pension costs.

One rumor that Urbanek has heard a number of times is that the actuaries use outdated figures – from as far back as the 1980s, he sa9id.

“It’s simply not the case,” Urbanek said.

He said the data tables the actuaries use are for five-year periods.

“If you determine mortality tables every year, you lose stability in the numbers,” Urbanek said.

David Thomas can be reached at (217) 782-6292.