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Illinois Retired Teachers Association sues over state pension reform

Pat Quinn, Illinois governor 1364x
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn

The Illinois Retired Teachers Association filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Illinois' recent pension reform law.

The lawsuit, the first filed over the law, was filed Dec. 27 in Cook County Circuit Court on behalf of eight retirees. The lawsuit contends the pension reform law violates a state constitutional stipulation that pension benefits “shall not be diminished or impaired.”

“The Constitution of the State of Illinois contains a guarantee relied upon by many thousands of active and retired teachers and school administrators for more than four decades,” the lawsuit states. “That guarantee, perhaps more so than anything else in the Illinois Constitution, was used by countless families across Illinois to plan careers, retirements and financial futures.”

“We always expected a lawsuit just as we expect this landmark reform will be upheld as constitutional,” said Brooke Anderson, spokeswoman for Gov. Pat Quinn, in an e-mail. “We believe the new law is as constitutionally sound as it is urgently needed to resolve the state's pension crisis.”

The reforms, passed by the General Assembly Dec. 3, are aimed at saving $160 billion over the next 30 years. The law decreases cost-of-living adjustments, caps pensionable salaries and raises retirement ages, but actually decreases employee contributions by one percentage point. Up to 5% of eligible employees will be able to join a defined contribution plan as well, and the five state retirement systems can sue the state to compel it to make required pension contributions.

The Illinois Retired Teachers Association said on Dec. 11 it expected to file a complaint within the next three to four weeks.

Rikeesha Phelon, spokeswoman for state Sen. John Cullerton, state Senate president and one of the architects of the legislation, said Mr. Cullerton will not be commenting on the lawsuit.