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Illinois Supreme Court Strikes Down Pension Law

Lloyd Karmeier
Brian Mackey

The Illinois Supreme Court has struck down legislation that tried to cut retirement benefits for thousands of state workers.

In a unanimous decision, the high court says lawmakers overstepped their power when they sought to cut pension benefits for state employees, university workers and public school teachers.

Illinois pensions are protected by the state Constitution, but the state argued a financial emergency meant those protections could be disregarded.

The court rejected that, seven to zero. Justice Lloyd Karmeier writes there are plenty of less drastic solutions — like raising taxes or changing the repayment schedule for pension debt.

Karmeier writes that the law "was in no sense a last resort. Rather, it was an expedient to break a political stalemate."

The decision calls into question a major part of Governor Bruce Rauner’s budget plan, which was premised on making further changes to Illinois’ pension system.

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
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