Attorneys for Illinois officials defend pension law

May 16, 2014

Attorneys for Illinois officials are defending controversial legislation cutting the retirement benefits of state employees. Unions representing those workers sued. They’re saying the pension changes are unconstitutional.

In a new court filing, lawyers for Governor Pat Quinn and other state officials say pensions for teachers, university employees, and others were underfunded for years because of the recent recession, low inflation, and people living longer.

Last year, Quinn signed a bill changing the benefits for most state employees. Labor unions sued, saying the state constitution doesn’t allow retirement benefits to be diminished.They point to people like Elaine Ferguson, who taught Kindergarten and First grade, and is earning 38-thousand dollars while retired this year.

The unions say by the time she reaches age 85, she’ll have lost 37-thousand dollars because of the benefit reductions.

Attorneys for the state acknowledge Ferguson won’t get what she would’ve earned before, but they say the growing pension debt threatened the most basic functions of state government.