(CBS) – An Illinois Supreme Court ruling could send lawmakers back to the pension reform drawing boards.

Public employee unions applauded the high court decision. Lawmakers and pension experts — not so much.

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports.

The pension reform bill passed by lawmakers late last year, if not dead, is at best on life support, following the ruling on a separate retiree benefit, modified the year before.

Former DCFS case worker Herb Bashir, retired 12 years and with serious respiratory problems, applauded Thursday’s ruling that will save him about $500 a year.

“We thought at least when we retired we were going to have a guaranteed benefit system,” he says.

The ruling tosses out changes calling for no more free rides for retirees making them pay a part of their coverage that would have saved the state more than $25 million a year.

State Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, was a member of the panel that helped write and pass Senate Bill 1, which would reduce pension payouts by $160 billion over 30 years, in part by cutting cost-of-living allowances while raising the retirement age.

He says it’s premature to talk about what’s next.

Thursday’s ruling was not technically about the constitutional guarantee of retirement benefits — only about whether free health care was one of them.

But the language in the decision seems to imply the Supreme Court believes a promise is a promise, no matter how serious the state’s financial crisis.