WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Illinois Pension Law Loses in Court

May 8, 2015

The Illinois Supreme Court struck down legislation that tried to cut retirement benefits for thousands of state workers.  In a unanimous decision, the high court said lawmakers overstepped their power when they sought to cut pension benefits for state employees, university workers, and public school teachers.

Illinois pensions are protected by the state Constitution, but the state argued a financial emergency meant those protections could be disregarded.

The court rejected that, 7-to-0. Justice Lloyd Karmeier wrote there are plenty of less drastic solutions — such as raising taxes or changing the repayment schedule for pension debt.

Karmeier wrote the law "was in no sense a last resort. Rather, it was an expedient to break a political stalemate."

The decision calls into question a major part of Governor Bruce Rauner’s budget plan, which was premised on making further changes to Illinois’ pension system.