A handful of constitutional amendments on the Nov. 6 ballots across the U.S. would affect public pension plans in a variety of states, but none goes very far toward reducing existing unfunded pension liabilities, even in the worst-funded states.
Voters in Illinois, which was ranked by the Pew Center on the States as the worst-funded pension plans with a funding ratio of 45%, will be asked to vote on the Illinois Public Pension Amendment. The measure would require a three-fifths supermajority vote by the General Assembly, city councils and school districts to enhance any public pension benefits.
While the measure would make it tougher to increase benefits, the simple majority needed to decrease them would remain the same.
“Arguments in favor of this say it would prevent future unfunded liability, but it does absolutely nothing to address the $200 billion crisis we face,” said Diane Cohen, general counsel of the Liberty Justice Center, a public interest litigation center started by the Illinois Policy Institute. “It requires a voting approval to increase benefits, but as we have seen historically, the votes on these things have passed overwhelmingly, so it won't do anything in terms of stopping a vote.”