Judge issues stay on implementing IL pension reform

Five unions representing Illinois state workers won a preliminary injunction against the pension reforms passed by legislature last year. Parts of the reform were scheduled to go into affect on June 1. Now questions regading the law's constitutionality will be decided before the law is implemented.

Chicago Tribune:

“This is an important first step in our efforts to overturn this unfair, unconstitutional law and to protect retirement security for working and retired Illinois families,” said Michael T. Carrigan, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO, the point man for the union coalition.

Judge John Belz recognized the retirees and others in the pension systems could suffer “irreparable harm” if the law is allowed to go forward while the constitutionality issues is still being fought out in the courts, according to his order. The case is expected to wind up in the Illinois Supreme Court.

“The goal of the pension reform law is to stabilize the pension systems,” said Maura Possley, spokeswoman for Attorney General Lisa Madigan. “Unfortunately, this decision will likely further burden the systems and hurt taxpayers.”

Gov. Pat Quinn and lawmakers approved the change to try to erase a pension system debt that tops $100 billion. The law impacts rank-and-file state workers, elected state officials, university employees and public school teachers outside of Chicago.

Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat and a pension expert, said she did not think the judge’s ruling would slow down attempts by Cook County to overhaul its retirement systems. But many at the Capitol are feeling what is being called “pension fatigue” following reforms approved for state plans, which the governor signed into law, and some of the city of Chicago plans, which Quinn has not yet said whether he will sign.

In truth, this "reform" measure doesn't close much of the $100 billion gap. It basically kicks the can down the road for a decade - maybe less - before the crisis hits again.

But at the moment, it's all Illinois has got. So if it's declared unconstitutional to cut a promised pension, it will be back to square one where Governor Quinn fought a year-long battle with the legislature just to win these meager concessions. The only alternative may be to raise taxes - again - which would hasten the exodus of people and businesses from the state.

It's hard to see how this ends well for anyone - workers, politicians, or the taxpayer.