Membership in the General Assembly Retirement System of Illinois is comprised of members of the General Assembly and state officials of the executive branch who are elected by the people of Illinois. Under certain conditions, the clerk or the assistant clerk of the House of Representatives and the secretary or the assistant secretary of the Senate may be eligible for membership.

Eligibility

You automatically become a member of GARS unless you file an election not to participate. Your written decision declining participation must be filed within 24 months from the date of being notified of the option. If you choose not to participate in GARS, you are subject to mandatory Social Security coverage unless you contribute a minimum of 7.5% of your legislative salary to the Illinois Deferred Compensation Plan.

Contributions

You contribute a percentage of your salary by payroll deduction for benefits. You contribute 8.5 percent of your salary toward your retirement annuity, 1 percent towards your annual annuity increases, and 2 percent towards the survivor’s annuity, for a total of 11.5 percent of your salary. Your contributions are excluded from your gross income for federal and state income tax purposes. You pay no tax on your contributions until you receive them.

You may choose not to contribute to the survivor’s annuity if you have no eligible survivors. If you revoke this election, you can requalify for the survivor’s annuity by repaying GARS all contributions that would have been paid for this time period, plus interest of 4%.

If you have no eligible survivors after contributing to the survivor’s annuity, you may apply for a refund of those contributions any time prior to retirement. A refund of the survivor’s annuity contributions cannot be made after retirement.

As a Tier 2 member, you will pay contributions to GARS until your earnings reach that year’s annual salary maximum used for benefit computations, as provided by the Illinois Department of Insurance.

Service credit is earned with the first day you become a contributing member. Your service during any fraction of a month is considered a full month of service.

If Your Contributions Were Refunded

See Optional Service Credit

f you terminated legislative service, received a refund of your contributions, and later returned to state service, you may reestablish your credited service by repaying your refund, plus 4% interest annually. Contributions must be repaid before retirement for your service to be credited.

If you are unmarried, have no eligible survivors, and have contributions in the survivor's annuity, you can apply for a refund of these contributions any time before retiring.

Military Service

Military service can be purchased based on your rate of compensation on the last date as a GARS participant prior to the military service, or on the first date as a participant after such military service, whichever is greater. A copy of your DD-214 is required. 

Service under other Illinois public retirement systems

See Optional Service Credit

If you have established at least one year of credited service under an Illinois public retirement system that participates in the Retirement Systems’ Reciprocal Act, your service under that system may be used to determine your eligibility for a GARS benefit.

In general, the rules of each retirement system apply in determining a benefit. The benefit amount is based on the benefit formula and amount of service in each system on your last day of service and is paid to you by each system. Annual benefit increases are made in accordance with each system’s statutes.

Under the Reciprocal Act, GARS computes benefits using an average of the eight highest consecutive years of earnings, subject to the annual salary maximums for participants whose membership date is after Dec. 31, 2010 (Tier 2). The reciprocal system involved calculates their share of the benefit based upon their formula. Your combined benefit, however, cannot be higher than it would have been if all service were in one system. If service credit under GARS is granted by a reciprocal system for the same time period, each system will reduce its credit proportionately.

The reciprocal system’s formula requires an average salary to compute their share of the benefit. GARS will provide earnings to the reciprocal system. If earnings in any calendar year exceeded the annual salary maximums (as determined by the Department of Insurance), the earnings will be capped before providing them to the reciprocal system.

As a Tier 2 member, you cannot be grandfathered into the Tier 1 formula based on service in a reciprocal system prior to January 1, 2011.

See the list of systems that participate in the Retirement Systems' Reciprocal Act.