The Fate of Pension Reform in Perspective

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 SPRINGFIELD – As WAND News reported Friday night at 6:00, the Illinois Supreme Court unanimously ruled unconstitutional the 2013 pension reform law (http://bit.ly/1ImsaNH).  The law, signed by former Governor Pat Quinn, extended retirement ages for current state workers, placed a cap on the amount of salary used to calculate pension benefits, and stopped automatic annual cost-of-living increases for retirees.

Unions sued.  A circuit court judge agreed with the argument against the law. The state appealed. Supreme Court Justices rejected the state's argument, saying the law violated the pension protection clause in the 1970 Illinois Constitution.

“Crisis is not an excuse to abandon the rule of law,” the court said.

Friday's ruling sends the fate of pension reform into the hands of the newly elected Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and a Democrat-controlled Assembly.

Rauner argued during the election that he felt the law was unconstitutional. He believes common-sense solutions can be reached.

Governor Rauner, for example, has proposed putting a constitutional amendment on the 2016 ballot to clarify that future retirement benefits could be changed.

The state general assembly has three weeks left in its session.  Paying the pension bill is a critical part of balancing the budget.

Friday's ruling affects nearly every unit of government in Illinois. Many have some level of unfunded pension debt.

While many U.S. states and cities are facing pension issues. Illinois' problems are front and center. Illinois has the worst-funded pension system ($110 billion unfunded debt) and lowest credit rating of the 50 states. 

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