SPRINGFIELD -- State Senate President John Cullerton told the State Journal Register Wednesday that House Speaker Mike Madigan's hints of adjusting pension plans will eventually fail because changing pension programs for state lawmakers and employees is unconstitutional.
Retired lawmakers and state employees have long dismissed any fear of their pensions being adjusted because the 1970 Illinois State Constitutional Convention confirmed that their retirement benefits would be secure in Article XIII, Section 4:
SECTION 5. PENSION AND RETIREMENT RIGHTS
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.
(Source: Illinois Constitution.)
This constitutional provision sets current state employees and retirees up with more security than private sector benefits, wherein during this recession, employers have had to cut pension donations, defer from contributions for a specific agreed upon length of time or eliminate them altogether.
But the State Journal-Register reports House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Plainfield) "already has legislation in the hopper that would pare pension benefits for current employees by requiring them to choose one of three options: keeping their pensions and working longer, paying higher pension costs or moving into a 401(k)-style retirement program."
Cullerton said he is willing to move forward with any adjustments, and let the courts decide whether its Constitutional or not.