A Sangamon County Judge today ruled that the pension law passed and signed into law last December violates the Illinois Constitution.
The ruling by Judge John Belz was in reaction to a motion filed by the We Are One Illinois coalition and others, claiming that the Illinois Constitution’s pension clause does not permit the State to impair or diminish pension benefits under any circumstances.
The We Are One Illinois labor coalition, which includes IEA, the Illinois Federation of Teachers, AFSCME and other labor groups, issued the following statement on the ruling:
*On behalf of the We Are One Illinois coalition and its member unions that represent hundreds of thousands of active and retired teachers, state employees and university employees throughout Illinois, we are gratified by the court’s ruling today.
*Today’s ruling makes clear that the Illinois Constitution means what it says, and the pension clause is absolute. The court held today, as our unions have long argued, that the state cannot simply choose to violate the Constitution and diminish or impair retirement benefits if politicians find these commitments inconvenient to keep.
*This is, of course, a victory for teachers and police, nurses and child protection workers and all other public servants, both active and retired, who have worked hard on behalf of Illinois and its residents in every community throughout the state. They earn modest pensions and always paid their share. Today they are more secure in the knowledge that their life savings can’t be taken away from them.
*But it is just as much a victory for every Illinois resident who believes in the integrity of the Constitution, the document that guides our state government. And it is a victory for a basic principle of fairness, that public employees and retirees should not be blamed or punished for the failures of politicians, and that their dignity and security in retirement should not be jeopardized.
*We remain ready to work with anyone of good faith to develop a fair and constitutional solution to funding state pension systems.
The Illinois Attorney General, representing the State in this matter, intends to appeal the ruling to the Illinois Supreme Court.