Most experts agree that Illinois’ pension reform law, passed in December, currently stands on shaky ground after a July ruling from the Illinois Supreme Court extended constitutional protection to retiree health premiums.
But Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn isn’t ready to write off the law just yet. In recent interviews, he’s also been steadfast that he’s not ready to start drawing up a backup plan, either.
From the Associated Press:
Gov. Pat Quinn argued Friday that it makes no sense to develop a contingency plan.
The Chicago Democrat, who “fervently” believes the plan is constitutional, said in an Associated Press interview that he’d like to get feedback from the courts before proceeding despite Illinois’ urgent financial difficulties.
“You don’t exactly help your position before the court if you say, ‘Well I’ve got a plan b out here, maybe you could take that instead,’ and it’s not even passed by the Legislature,” Quinn said. “That’s a very bad strategic position …”
Quinn’s comments come as he faces a tough re-election challenge from Republican businessman Bruce Rauner (ROW-nur). He opposes the law Quinn signed in 2013.
After years of debate, lawmakers approved a plan that cuts benefits for most employees and retirees aimed reducing the state’s massive unfunded liability.
Unions sued over the law, saying it violates the Illinois Constitution.
But in a separate case on retiree health care, the Illinois Supreme Court in July ruled a law requiring retirees to pay more for health insurance was unconstitutional. The decision centered on the constitution’s strong protections for retirement benefits.
Quinn has drawn criticism for the lack of backup preparations. Last week, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune wrote:
Gov. Pat Quinn says he doesn’t need a “Plan B” to address the problem because he believes the Illinois Supreme Court will uphold the pension reform law he signed in December.
Quinn’s faith in the Illinois Supreme Court is farfetched. In July, the court issued a thumping 6-1 ruling striking down a previous legislative effort to cut health care subsidies to state retirees and employing language that seemed to serve as a funeral oration for the pension reform law.
Addressing the state’s “but we can’t afford to provide the benefits we promised!” argument, the majority wrote that the unequivocal pension protection clause in the Illinois Constitution “was aimed at protecting the right to receive the promised retirement benefits, not the adequacy of the funding to pay for them.”
Even if Quinn genuinely has hope that the court will gymnastically OK the pending law nevertheless, he still owes it to us to reveal what he proposes to do when — I mean if — those hopes are dashed.
As Pension360 has covered, pensions are becoming a bigger part of the race for Illinois governor in light of the July court ruling that opened the door for reworked reform measures.