Major unions sue Illinois over pension overhaul

It was expected, and now it has arrived: a lawsuit has landed in the lap of a Sangamon County Circuit Court judge which seeks to overturn Illinois’ massive pension reform plan signed into law last month.

The lawsuit was filed by We Are One Illinois, a coalition of unions including the Illinois AFL-CIO, the American Federation of State, the Service Employees International Union, the Illinois Federation of Teachers, County and Municipal Employees, the Illinois Education Association and others.

The lawsuit, like the ones before it, centers on a provision in the Illinois Constitution that says pension benefits represent a “contractual relationship” and may not be “diminished or repaired”.

The Associated Press recaps the provisions of the reform law:

The plan reduces the annual cost-of-living increases for retirees and raises the retirement age for workers 45 and younger, giving some workers the option of freezing their pension and participating in a 401(k)-style contribution plan. It also puts some savings back into the pension funds and directs money from pension bond payments to the retirement systems after those bonds are paid off in 2019.

Lawmakers also included two components they say were intended to improve the plan’s odds of surviving a legal challenge: a 1 percent decrease in employee contributions and a funding guarantee, which allows the systems to sue the state if lawmakers don’t provide Illinois’ payments to the accounts.

The law was expected to take effect on June 1, 2014. But the lawsuit will likely delay implementation of the reforms, as the lawsuit asks the court to delay the law until the case is decided.

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