Pension Reform in Illinois Likely to Look Different Under Rauner If Supreme Court Rejects Current Law

Bruce Rauner

Under Gov. Pat Quinn, Illinois passed a sweeping pension overhaul that cut COLAs and raised retirement ages for some workers.

But the state Supreme Court could reject the law. If that happens, it will be Bruce Rauner who will be able to shape reform legislation, which will likely look different than Quinn’s. From the Wall Street Journal:

Confronting the nation’s worst state pension shortfall was the top concern of Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn. The same will likely be true for Bruce Rauner, his newly elected successor.

The Illinois Supreme Court in coming months could dump the $100 billion problem in the lap of Mr. Rauner, who defeated Mr. Quinn on Tuesday to become the state’s first Republican governor in more than a decade.

A year ago, Mr. Quinn, a Democrat, won passage of a bill that lowered future pension costs by shrinking cost-of-living increases for retirees and raising retirement ages for younger employees, among other steps. State workers and retirees challenged the law, and a recent ruling by Illinois’s top court signaled the justices may end up overturning the law.

Mr. Rauner, who was a longtime private-equity executive before deciding to run for governor, has said he favors moving to a 401(k)-style system over pensions, but the shape that would take at the state capitol remains to be seen. Mr. Rauner was quiet the day after his big victory and his campaign declined an interview request.

Part of the challenge for any plan for Mr. Rauner will be getting it through the Democratic-controlled legislature. Many there agree the state has a big problem, but Mr. Quinn had a bruising fight with his own party to broker a deal.

To be sure, Illinois will continue to be a focus of the national debate that’s raging over how to fix ailing public pension systems. But on Tuesday, the Land of Lincoln wasn’t alone in having the issue play a role in the elections.

Bruce Rauner gives some hints about what his plans for pension reform would look like on his website:

I believe we must choose to address this problem head-on. No tinkering around the edges.

We must boldly reform our pension system. To do that, we can:

– Ensure pay and benefits do not rise faster than the rate of inflation.

– Eliminate the ability of government employees to receive massive pay raises before they retire just to increase their pension.

– Cap the current system and move towards a defined contribution system.

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