The Illinois Supreme Court delivered their unanimous decision May 8: Illinois' pension reform law, signed by former Gov. Pat Quinn in December 2013, is unconstitutional and cannot stand. Illinois politicians and organizations began to respond right away, some more pleased with the decision than others.
From Gov. Bruce Rauner's spokesman Lance Trover:
The Supreme Court's decision confirms that benefits earned cannot be reduced. That's fair and right, and why the governor long maintained that SB 1 is unconstitutional. What is now clear is that a Constitutional Amendment clarifying the distinction between currently earned benefits and future benefits not yet earned, which would allow the state to move forward on common-sense pension reforms, should be part of any solution.
From Illinois Senate President John Cullerton:
From the beginning of our pension reform debates, I expressed concern about the constitutionality of the plan that we ultimately advanced as a test case for the court. Today, the Illinois Supreme Court declared that regardless of political considerations or fiscal circumstances, state leaders cannot renege on pension obligations. This ruling is a victory for retirees, public employees and everyone who respects the plain language of our Constitution.
That victory, however, should be balanced against the grave financial realities we will continue to face without true reforms. If there are to be any lasting savings in pension reform, we must face this reality within the confines of the Pension Clause. I stand ready to work with all parties to advance a real solution that adheres to the Illinois Constitution.
State Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Democrat from Northbrook, said:
Our goal from the beginning of our work on pension reform has been to strike a very careful, very important balance between protecting the hard-earned investments of state workers and retirees and the equally important investments of all taxpayers in education, human and social services, health care and other vital state priorities. In its ruling today, the Supreme Court struck down not only the law but the core of that balance. Now our already dire pension problem will get that much worse and our options in striking that balance are limited. Our path forward from here is now much more difficult, and every direction will be more painful than the balance we struck in Senate Bill 1.
From Illinois Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno:
Illinois has the nation's worst-funded pension system and the biggest pension deficit of any state. Nearly a quarter of our budget goes directly to pensions or to pay off past loans used to cover short-term pension costs.
I am committed to working with everyone to find a solution that adheres to the Constitution. We must work together in bipartisan cooperation with Governor Rauner - who has demonstrated his commitment to tackle the most difficult problems facing Illinois.
(Check out Reboot Illinois to see reactions from other Illinois politicians, including House Republican Leader Jim Durkin and State Rep. Tom Morrison, as well as from Illinois civic organizations.)
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