What to do about Illinois' soaring pension debt remains a concern, even though legislators passed a law overhauling the state's retirement systems. Its constitutionality is in question.
A recent, related state Supreme Court ruling, which found that retirees' healthcare is a constitutionality-protected benefit, appears to give greater weight to unions' position that the pension law is illegal. The law reduces workers' and retirees' pensions, and raises the retirement age.
Senate President John Cullerton has put out feelers to go a different route. He suggested to a Chicago Tribune columnist that workers be given a choice. He's essentially returning to a concept previously agreed to by a coalition of public employee unions.
The model called for asking workers to give up annual, compounded pension bumps, or the salary upon which a workers' pension is based would effectively be frozen. However, unions don't seem interested in going back to that compromise now; here's spokesman Anders Lindall:
"We sought to work together toward a compromise solution; the politicians rejected that last year, and plunged ahead with an unfair, and we believe, clearly unconstitutional template."
Lindall says until a court decision on the pension law is reached, there's "no room to continue discussions."That could be a ways off; the case is currently in a Sangamon County Circuit Court.