Illinois Supreme Court rules pension law unconstitutional

close up of a $20 bill

The court said the 2013 law violates the pension protection clause in the 1970 Illinois Constitution.

 

The Illinois Supreme Court on Friday unanimously declared unconstitutional the 2013 state pension law that would have diminished employee benefits.

The court ruled that the pension law violates the pension protection clause in the 1970 Illinois Constitution, which says pension benefits shall not be diminished or impaired. The law, passed by state legislators in response to the state’s $100 billion pension shortfall — would have reduced cost-of-living adjustments, increased the retirement age for some employees and capped pensionable earnings.

“Now that the Supreme Court has spoken on the law’s constitutionality, we await the state’s reaction to the ruling,” University President Robert Easter said in a statement Friday. “Although the ruling leaves the pension issue unresolved, it is an important next step and may provide guidance as elected officials consider other alternatives.”

The ruling means that state legislators need to find another solution to address the pension shortfall, said Brenda Russell, president of UIC-SUAA, the UIC chapter of the State Universities Annuitants Association. Only about 10 percent of the shortfall is related to pension costs — the other 90 percent is for interest payments, Russell said.

“This legal ruling was expected. Now the state will have to get serious about new revenue,” said Russell, professor emerita of physiology and biophysics. “All politicians must be realistic and numerate. We state employees paid into the fund but the state did not pay their share.”

The university will continue to lobby for a sustainable solution, Easter said.

“Pensions are a key element in a competitive compensation program that is critical in recruiting and retaining faculty and staff,” he said. “The U of I will continue to track this important issue and provide its input and expertise.”

 

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