SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP/CBS) — The Illinois Supreme Court on Friday struck down a 2013 law that sought to fix the nation’s worst government-employee pension crisis, a ruling that forces the state to find another way to overcome a massive budget deficit.
In a unanimous decision, the seven justices declared the law passed 18 months ago violates the state constitution because it would leave pension promises “diminished or impaired.”READ MORE: Woman With Concealed Carry Permit Shoots At Would-Be Gunpoint Carjacker In Roseland
“In enacting the provisions, the General Assembly overstepped the scope of its legislative power. This court is therefore obligated to declare those provisions invalid,” Justice Lloyd Karmeier said in writing the court’s opinion.
The decree puts new Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democrats who control the General Assembly back at the starting line in trying to figure out how to wrestle down a $111 billion deficit in what’s necessary to cover its state employee retirement obligations. The hole is so deep the state has in recent years had to reserve up to $7 billion — or one-fifth of its operating funds — to keep pace.
A variety of elected officials basically said, “I told you so.”
“I’m not surprised. I recommended against that as well,” Rauner said Friday. He said legislative staffs were working on a new plan that would pass legal muster.
Meanwhile, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he also wasn’t surprised by the state high court decision.
“The State never worked with their labor partners. We worked with our labor partners. That is a fundamental difference,” he said.
Illinois State Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, says he wants to go back to a bill he passed in his chamber two years ago, linking any future pay raises to reductions in pension benefits. He doesn’t think there is the will to raise taxes.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Clearing Overnight, Milder Tuesday
Most states faced the same public employee pension crisis, exacerbated by the Great Recession, and took steps to remedy the problem. But Illinois balked for years at addressing the crisis until former Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and fellow Democrats who control the General Assembly overcame opposition from union allies and struck the deal, amid warnings that it might not pass constitutional muster.