Retired workers sue over state pension overhaul

Jan 2, 2014

A group of retired government workers has sued to block a law that cuts pension benefits for Illinois state employees. It's the latest in what's expected to be a series of lawsuits. 

 The Retired State Employees Association represents about 9,000 former state workers.Their case, filed in Springfield, argues the pension overhaul signed into law last month violates the Illinois Constitution, which says government pension benefits cannot be "diminished."

When he signed the law, Gov. Pat Quinn asserted there would be no reductions in pension checks going out to current retirees.

Association attorney John Myers, however, sees it differently.

 "They're not reducing the checks that the retirees are going to get next week, but they're reducing future checks."

 The overhaul puts significant limits on what until now had been automatic, three-percent annual increases in pension payments.

The lawsuit says past governors and legislatures basically used the pension funds as "lenders of last resort," diverting money to plug holes in the state budget -- all while employees paid their share out of every paycheck.