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Illinois pension bill blocked

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn takes a hit after his Illinois Pension Reform Bill is blocked by the courts as the bill is deemed quite possibly unconstitutional.
Photo by Scott Paulson

The contentious Illinois pension reform law has been blocked by a judge on Wednesday. It is a temporary victory for which could turn into a more permanent victory for Illinois workers and retirees. The blocking of the Illinois pension law delays what would have been the beginning of a massive overhaul of pensions earned by workers throughout the state. The measure gives more time for legality of the bill to be determined, according to a Chicago Tribune report on Wednesday evening.

We Are One Illinois, a union coalition, and retiree groups were awarded a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction in Sangamon County Circuit Court. The measure puts the law on hold for now. With this judicial move against the law, the Illinois pension law will not be taking effect, as previously planned, on June 1, 2014.

According to Crain’s Chicago Business publication, Judge John Belz made the judicial order while believing that Illinois retirees and others in the state’s pension systems could very well suffer irreparable harm, should the law go forward as is. He recognizes that the constitutionality concerns that are still deeply contested in the courts need to be resolved. It is thought that the question of the new law’s constitutionality and legality will wind up in the Illinois Supreme Court.

We Are One Illinois and the retiree groups that presented the case have contested the law by saying it is totally unconstitutional. They have asserted that rolling back the benefits is not legal. They also have said that raising retirement ages are unconstitutional. Their claims are based on the Illinois Constitution which dictates that public employee pensions are a contractual relationship. Within the Constitution’s contractual relationship, benefits which the new Illinois pension law rolls back cannot be diminished or impaired.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and his lawmakers in Springfield had approved the change in the pension system previously. They had forced the law through legislature to curb the current pension crisis. The law impacts state workers including Illinois’ public school teachers who are not teaching in Chicago (which has its own system) and elected state officials. State workers such as teachers have paid into the system throughout their entire careers believing it would be there when they retired, but Illinois has reportedly misspent the money through the decades.

Like Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, Attorney General Lisa Madigan has been extremely supportive of the bill. She vehemently supports the bill in spite of how severely and negatively it will impact Illinois elementary and secondary school teachers outside of Chicago and other Illinois workers. Like Quinn, she is a Democrat.