Jim Edgar

James Edgar (born July 22, 1946) is an American politician who was the 38th Governor of Illinois from 1991 to 1999.[1] Previously he served as a member of the Illinois House of Representatives from 1976 to 1979 and as Illinois Secretary of State from 1981 to 1991. Though still popular, he surprised many by retiring from elected office after his second term as governor, claiming that heart problems he had while governor were not a factor in his decision. [2]

Jim Edgar
38th Governor of Illinois
In office
January 14, 1991  January 11, 1999
LieutenantBob Kustra
Preceded byJames R. Thompson
Succeeded byGeorge Ryan
35th Secretary of State of Illinois
In office
January 12, 1981  January 14, 1991
GovernorJames R. Thompson
Preceded byAlan J. Dixon
Succeeded byGeorge Ryan
Member of the Illinois House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
Born (1946-07-22) July 22, 1946
Vinita, Oklahoma, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Brenda Smith
EducationEastern Illinois University

Political life

Illinois House of Representatives

A Republican, Edgar was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives in 1976 and re-elected in 1978.

Illinois Secretary of State

In April 1979, Edgar resigned his state House seat to accept an appointment from Governor Jim Thompson as his legislative liaison. In early 1981, when then-Secretary of State Alan Dixon moved to the U.S. Senate, Thompson named Edgar to fill the vacancy. He won the office on his own in 1982 and 1986 and served until 1991.[3]

Governor of Illinois

During his second term, the relationship between his re-election campaign and Management Systems of Illinois (MSI) came under federal scrutiny. MSI, Edgar's largest campaign contributor, was granted a contract that cost an estimated $20 million in overcharges. Edgar was never accused of wrongdoing, but he testified twice, once in court and once by videotape, becoming the first sitting Illinois governor to take the witness stand in a criminal case in 75 years. In those appearances, the governor insisted political donations played no role in who received state contracts.[4] Convictions were obtained against Management Services of Illinois; Michael Martin, who had been a partner of Management Services of Illinois, and Ronald Lowder, who had been a state welfare administrator and later worked for Management Services of Illinois.[5]

"Edgar Ramp"

Prior to 1981, the State of Illinois funded pensions on an "as-you-go" basis, making benefit payouts as they came due, with employee contributions and investment income funding a reserve to cover future payouts. This approach was stopped in 1982 due to strains on the Illinois budget, and state contributions remained flat between 1982 and 1995, resulting in underfunding of pensions by approximately $20 billion. To address this shortfall, the Illinois legislature, in 1994, passed and then-Governor Edgar signed Public Act 88-593, which set payments by the State of Illinois into the pension funds at only 90 percent of liabilities, stretched this funding level over 50 years until 2045, and back-loaded payments with a 15-year ramp.[6] The underfunding of pension reserves over the first fifteen years was not fiscally sound, and was the major cause of a large gap between the State's obligations to pay pension benefits and the funds available to pay those benefits. As Governor, Edgar signed the pension legislation into law, and for this reason, the initial underfunding of pensions became known as the "Edgar Ramp."[7] The US Federal Securities and Exchange Commission described this analysis in a report.[8]

Later life

Edgar is a distinguished fellow of the Institute of Government & Public Affairs at the University of Illinois in Champaign, Illinois.[9]

In February 2008, Edgar endorsed Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona for President of the United States.[10]

Edgar was named the honorary chairman of the Ronald Reagan Centennial Celebration at Eureka College, President Reagan's alma mater. To open the Reagan Centennial year in January 2011, Governor Edgar delivered the keynote speech at the concluding dinner of the "Reagan and the Midwest" academic conference held at Eureka College.[11] In September 2011, Edgar helped dedicate the Mark R. Shenkman Reagan Research Center housed in the Eureka College library.[12]

As former chairman of the board of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation, Edgar underwrote the costs of the traveling trophy for the annual Lincoln Bowl tradition started in 2012. The Lincoln Bowl celebrates the Lincoln connection with Knox College and Eureka College, two Illinois colleges where Lincoln spoke, and is awarded to the winning team each time the two schools play each other in football.[13]

Edgar supported Mitt Romney in 2012.[14] When Donald Trump won the Republican nomination in 2016, Edgar publicly announced that he would not be voting for the candidate.[15]

In the spring of 2016, Edgar said publicly that he believes Governor Bruce Rauner should sign the Democratic budget and support the Democratic pension plan.[16] Edgar pushed for a pension bill to save $15 billion back in 1994.[17] "We had a time bomb in our retirement system that was going to go off in the first part of the 21st century," Edgar told The State Journal Register in 1994. "This legislation defuses that time bomb."[17] The legislature passed Edgar's bill unanimously.[17]

In July 2016, the Chicago Sun-Times Illinois Financing Partners, a firm for which Edgar served as chairman, won approval by the state to advance money to state vendors who had been waiting for payments by the state. In turn, the firm would get to keep late payment fees when Illinois finally pays.[18]


Jim Edgar was inducted as a Laureate of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois and awarded the Order of Lincoln (the State's highest honor) by the Governor of Illinois in 1999 in the area of Government.[19]


  1. "Illinois Governor Jim Edgar". Governor's Information. National Governors Association. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved July 26, 2007.
  2. "Illinois Governor Surprises By Retiring From Politics". New York Times. August 21, 1997. Retrieved September 8, 2011.
  3. "Illinois blue book, 1997-1998 :: Illinois Blue Books". Idaillinois.org. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
  4. "Msi Scandal Link To Aides Of Edgar, Philip Revealed - tribunedigital-chicagotribune". Articles.chicagotribune.com. August 24, 2000. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
  5. Press, The Associated (August 17, 1997). "Illinois Campaign Donor Is Convicted of Bribery" via NYTimes.com.
  6. Brown, Jeffrey R; Dye, Richard F (June 1, 2015). "Illinois Pensions in a Fiscal Context: A (Basket) Case Study" via National Bureau of Economic Research.
  7. Zorn, Eric. "The 'Edgar Ramp' took Illinois downhill, but many share the blame". chicagotribune.com.
  8. "Administrative proceeding" (PDF). www.sec.gov. March 11, 2013. Retrieved September 1, 2019.
  9. "Jim Edgar". Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois: Institute of Government and Public Affairs. Archived from the original on August 3, 2012. Retrieved January 3, 2009.
  10. Tackett, Michael (February 1, 2008). "Former Ill. Gov. Edgar endorses McCain". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on January 7, 2016. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  11. Steinbacher, Michele (November 23, 2010). "Edgar, Meese to appear at Reagan conference in Eureka". Pantagraph.com. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
  12. Chris Kaergard (September 26, 2011). "Edgar dedicates Mark R. Shenkman Reagan Research Center - News - Woodford Times - Peoria, IL - Metamora, IL". Woodford Times. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
  13. "Lincoln Bowl". Pantagraph.com. September 2, 2013. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
  14. "Edgar: GOP Campaign Has Gone On Too Long « CBS Chicago". Chicago.cbslocal.com. March 21, 2012. Retrieved June 1, 2016.
  15. Petrella, Dan. "Edgar: Trump candidacy, Rauner money make 2016 unpredictable". pantagraph.com.
  16. Glennon, Mark (October 20, 2015). "Why Jim Edgar Has Zero Credibility on Illinois Budget, Pensions: It's Not Just the 'Edgar Ramp' – WP Original | Wirepoints".
  17. "The Edgar ramp – the 'reform' that unleashed Illinois' pension crisis". Illinois Policy. October 27, 2015.
  18. Fusco, Chris; Novak, Tim (July 2, 2016). "WATCHDOGS: Ex-Gov. Jim Edgar aims to cash in on state's cash woes". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved July 13, 2016.
  19. "Laureates by Year - The Lincoln Academy of Illinois". The Lincoln Academy of Illinois. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
Party political offices
Preceded by
James R. Thompson
Republican Party nominee for Governor of Illinois
1990, 1994
Succeeded by
George Ryan
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