Let us not forget that Illinois has screwed themselves with decades of liberal rule and ridiculous pandering to the public employee unions.
The Illinois Supreme Court on Friday unanimously ruled unconstitutional a landmark state pension law that aimed to scale back government worker benefits to erase a massive $105 billion retirement system debt, sending lawmakers and the new governor back to the negotiating table to try to solve the pressing financial issue.
The ruling also reverberated at City Hall, imperiling a similar law Mayor Rahm Emanuel pushed through to shore up two of the four city worker retirement funds and making it more difficult for him to find fixes for police, fire and teacher pension funds that are short billions of dollars.
At issue was a December 2013 state law signed by then-Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn that stopped automatic, compounded yearly cost-of-living increases for retirees, extended retirement ages for current state workers and limited the amount of salary used to calculate pension benefits.
Employee unions sued, arguing that the state constitution holds that pension benefits amount to a contractual agreement and once they’re bestowed, they cannot be “diminished or impaired.” A circuit court judge in Springfield agreed with that assessment in November. State government appealed that decision to the Illinois Supreme Court, arguing that economic necessity forced curbing retirement benefits.
On Friday the justices rejected that argument, saying the law clearly violated what’s known as the pension protection clause in the 1970 Illinois Constitution.
Now what? Their choices are very limited. They can jack up taxes and cut spending on every other public priority (roads, schools, prisons, healthcare, etc.), but even then they will likely not be able to meet their pension obligations. Plus, the public will not be very appreciative of such actions. Or the state could declare bankruptcy and default on the pension obligations. Bankruptcy appears to be the most likely scenario.
For more reasons than just this, I’m glad that I don’t live in Illinois.