Ears Turn To Supreme Court For Next Pensions Cue

Nov 24, 2014

Gov. Pat Quinn is surrounded by legislative leaders and lawmakers who helped write the pension plan, as he signs it into law.
Credit Harvey Tillis / Illinois Information Service

Although one court has tossed out Illinois’ mega pension overhaul, state leaders are likely to wait on another legal opinion before deciding what to do next.

There’s no question -- the Sangamon County Circuit Court judge’s ruling is meaningful. But Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office is appealing to the state Supreme Court.

Madigan has said it makes sense for lawmakers to wait to hear from those justices.

“People voted for this. It went into law. And now this is what the legislature and the governor have supported. And until it’s declared unconstitutional ... it’s probably premature for them to be trying to fashion a different solution, if they don’t’ actually end up with that problem,” Madigan said in an October interview.

But if the state’s high court does end up tossing the pension law, she says its ruling could be a guide lawmakers could use to help draft a new one.

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner previously said he thinks the package is unconstitutional (he even worked to prevent the General Assembly from passing it), but he also favors hearing from the state's high court before trying to craft a new bill.

“My preference is probably to wait, until the Supreme Court rules, so we have some ground rules, for what probably works and what won’t work, I think that’s the smarter way to do it,” Rauner said.

At the same time, Rauner also says crafting a bipartisan pension overhaul is a top priority that he plans to work on right away.  Rauner has talked about moving public employees to a 401(k) style system.

Gov. Pat Quinn said in a statement Friday that he is confident the Illinois Supreme Court will uphold the original law, which he called an urgently-needed answer to Illinois' most pressing fiscal crisis.

In the meanwhile, teachers and state employees will keep their existing retirement benefits.