Illinois Supreme Court hears Chicago pension arguments

Nov 17, 2015

The Illinois Supreme Court is taking on another pension case six months after justices unanimously tossed out the state's landmark pension law.  Today they heard arguments as to whether a law affecting thousands of City of Chicago employees is constitutional or not.

Illinois had tried to argue its underfunded pensions were such a drain, the state had to cut retiree benefits and raise the retirement age. Justices weren't impressed; in May they ruled that defies a constitutional clause that says benefits can't be diminished.

Now, Chicago is looking to do the same. But a bunch of unions signed onto this package. The Chicago law also includes a funding guarantee.  City attorney Steve Patton says that's no diminishment of benefits; it's a net positive.

"They won’t just have an empty promise.  To say that somehow the constitution is so restricted that an act so beneficial to the funds and their participants is somehow unconstitutional turns the clause on its head."

But Clint Krislov, a lawyer for employees contesting the law, says what Chicago's trying is no different than the unconstitutional state version.

"Same issues, same arguments, same result."

Municipalities across the state looking to control their own pension costs could take cues from whatever justices decide.