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Retired teachers take aim at new pension reform law

1 year, 4 months ago Chicago Tribune

Illinois Retired Teachers Association files first lawsuit in Cook County

From Chicago Tribune:

The Illinois Retired Teachers Association filed suit Friday challenging the constitutionality of the state’s historic but controversial plan to deal with the nation’s most underfunded public employee pension system.

The lawsuit is the first of what could be many filed on behalf of state workers, university employees, lawmakers and teachers outside Chicago. The legal challenge argues the law, which limits cost-of-living increases, raises retirement ages for many current workers and caps the amount of salaries eligible for retirement benefits, violates the state Constitution.

The lawsuit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court on behalf of eight non-union retirees, teachers and superintendents who are members of the state’s Teacher Retirement System, contended the constitutional “guarantee on which so many relied has been violated.”

“Countless careers, retirements, personal investments and medical treatments have been planned in justifiable reliance not only on the promises that were made in collective bargaining agreements and the Illinois Pension Code, but also on the guarantee of the (state constitution’s) Pension Protection Clause,” the lawsuit said.

But a spokeswoman for Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who signed the pension changes into law this month after years of political stalemate, said that just as a lawsuit had been expected, the administration “(expects) this landmark reform will be upheld as constitutional.”

At issue is a provision of the 1970 Illinois Constitution which states that public pensions represent“an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.”

The new law, however, scales back what had been annual 3 percent compounded cost-of-living increases to retirees. Instead, retirees would get 3 percent, non-compounding yearly bumps based on a formula that takes into account their years of service multiplied by $1,000. The $1,000 factor would be increased by the rate of inflation each year.

The measure also requires many current workers to skip up to five annual cost-of-living pension increases when they retire. For current workers, it also would boost the retirement age by up to five years, depending on how old they are.

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