Retired teachers sue state over pension law
BY TINA SFONDELES Staff Reporter December 27, 2013 5:58PM
Updated: January 29, 2014 6:10AM
Eight retired non-union teachers and school officials filed a class action lawsuit Friday, calling the state’s pension reform law “an unapologetic violation” of Illinois’ constitutional pension clause.
The suit, filed in Cook Count Circuit Court, is the first of many expected to be filed, challenging the reform law.
According to the suit, the 1970 Illinois Constitution protects pension rights under the Pension Protection Clause and those rights “will be irreparably harmed by the implementation and enforcement,” of the law.
The clause states “membership in any pension or retirement system of the State, any unit of local government or school district, or any agency or instrumentality thereof, shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.”
In late November, House and Senate leaders struck the landmark pension-reform accord that could shave $160 billion from the state’s future pension liabilities, and lift Illinois from its status as the least creditworthy state in the country. At the heart of the deal are changes to the annual, 3-percent compounding cost-of-living increase retirees now automatically get. The suit calls Gov. Pat Quinn’s pension reform law “not true reform,” and “an unapologetic violation” of the pension clause.
The suit says the law directly lessens the benefits of membership in a retirement system by changing the formula used to calculate cost of living adjustment for pension annuities; raising the retirement age for members of certain retirement systems on a sliding scare based upon age; and imposing a cap on the pensionable salary of members of certain state retirement systems.
The suit, seeking class-action status, seeks a declaration that the law is void in its entirety because it violates the Illinois Constitution.
Quinn, Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka and the Board of Trustees of the Teachers’ Retirement System of the State of Illinois, are all named as defendants.
The suit also seeks an unspecified amount in damages, as well as attorney fees.
A Quinn spokeswoman said the suit was “expected just as we expect this landmark reform will be upheld as constitutional.”
“This historic law squarely addresses the most pressing fiscal crisis of our time by eliminating the state’s unfunded pension debt, a standard set by the Governor two years ago,” spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said. “It will ensure retirement security for those who have faithfully contributed to the pension systems, end the squeeze on critical education and human services, and support economic growth.”