One big case

One big case

Less is more in the case of public employees and retirees challenging changes to their pensions.

Before the Illinois courts can make a decision on the constitutionality of last year's controversial pension reform legislation, they had to get procedures straight.

The Illinois Supreme Court addressed that issue earlier this week when it consolidated four lawsuits challenging the new pension law into a single case and ordering it be heard in Sangamon County rather than Cook County.

Ultimately, this case will be decided by the Illinois Supreme Court. But it will start with a single judge in a Springfield courtroom and progress from there.

The pension legislation is designed to save taxpayers $160 billion over the next 10 years by implementing changes that will slow the increase in public pension costs. But critics are challenging the legislation's constitutionality, charging it violates the Illinois Constitution's guarantee that pension benefits cannot be decreased.

If the challengers win, and they well may, the governor and legislators must start over in fashioning a solution to the state's pension and budget woes. The state's public pensions are underfunded by roughly $100 billion, prompting legislators to approve changes that modify the 3 percent annual cost-of-living increases, raise retirement ages and limit salaries on which pensions are based. The bill also reduced by 1 percent the amount current workers pay into the system.

There is considerable concern among Gov. Pat Quinn and other pension bill supporters about how the court will rule. But one way or the other, it will be useful to finally have an answer as to the meaning of the state Constitution's non-diminution clause and the lengths legislators may go in fashioning a solution to the problem.

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Sid Saltfork wrote on March 05, 2014 at 2:03 pm

The News Gazette's article is somewhat deceptive. 

Yes, "current employees" will pay 1% less in pension contributions.  The retirees are not paying less because they have already paid over all of those years.  Those who paid over 40 years are not seeing any benefit.  They are still having their Cost of Living Adjustment cut in half.  Over the years when inflation rises, their lives will decline into poverty. 

The State of Illinois Supreme Court can decide that one part of the "pension reform" is constitutional; but that the "pension reform" for the retirees violates the State of Illinois Constitution based on "pensions shall not be impaired, or diminished".  That wording was put into the State of Illinois Constitution to make sure the employees would be protected while at the same time the employer, the State of Illinois, did not make it's required employer pension payments.  The employees paid their share with every paycheck.  Now that they are retired, the "Illinois lawmakers" ( a derogatory term all across the country ) want to attempt to steal the retirees' money via violating the state's constitution.

State employees, university employees, and teachers paid their required pension payments for all of the years of their careers helping state citizens, and their children.  They paid; but their employer did not.  The employees paid taxes just like their neighbors.  They supported, and still support the local schools via taxes. If there is any remaining justice left in Illinois, the political State of Illinois Supreme Court Justices should easily determine the case in favor of the retired employees. Remember that State Attorney General, Lisa Madigan, wanted the case to be heard by a Cook County judge; not a Sangamon County judge before proceeding. She, also, wanted separate cases rather than one combined case.  Who's her Daddy?  Mike Madigan, the Speaker of the House, is her Daddy.  He has been in the state legislature for over 30 years doing dirty deals for his personal benefit.  Combine the political games with a political Supreme Court, and a conservative media that has demonized public employees over this "pension reform"; and it shows both the greed, and ignorance involved by those who paid nothing, zero.., wanting to steal earned retirement from the elderly.  

Shame on those groups, and individuals.  They could slither under a door.  Lower than whale... oh Heck, just remember "What goes around, comes around".    

EdRyan wrote on March 05, 2014 at 4:03 pm

Pensions contributions are not funded when financial markets are flying high because the unrealized asset gains make up the difference.  But low and behold, financial markets crash and those unrealized asset gains are gone in a flash.

Actuaries want to change the accounting for defined benefit pensions by measuring funding requirements using the risk free rate of return instead of market returns.  A change like that would help get the pensions funded instead of relying on the castles in the sky approach favored by Illinois.


Sid Saltfork wrote on March 06, 2014 at 9:03 am

The retired employees funded them in every paycheck deduction.  The legislators, and governor did not fund them repeatedly.  The returns were, and still are decent in gains.  However you want to address future pensions is to be debated.  One thing that cannot be debated is that thousands of state employees, university employees, and teachers lived up to their obligations; and retired due to the State of Illinois Constitution protecting their earned retirement.  The game cannot be changed for them.

Oh yeah; newspapers can demonize them.  Political candidates, legislators, and governors can demonize them.  The rabid, misinformed, howling mob can demonize them.  However, the fact remains.  They paid as they were required into a system that was defined for their retirement.  Any theft of their retirement is nothing less than corruption, and shame on all those who encouraged, and committed the theft.

Theft is theft no matter how you justify it.