Pension Bill In House Faces Obstacles

May 17, 2017
House Republican Leader Jim Durkin speaks with reporters in his Capitol office on May 31, 2015.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin speaks with reporters in his Capitol office on May 31, 2015.

Brian Mackey/NPR Illinois

Illinois house leaders of both parties have introduced legislation to change the state’s public pension systems. But some constitutional lawyers say it has little chance of getting through the Illinois Supreme Court.

Republican House Minority Leader Jim Durkin says the last time he sat with Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie in a committee hearing, it was to impeach then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

"So, draw your own conclusions on how this is going to go today, whether or not this is a positive sign of momentum or a harbinger of doom,” Durkin said.

The two are pushing a plan to effectively lower pension benefits for public employees by giving them a choice: agree to lower raises in retirement, or have your pension based on your salary today, no matter how much more money you make in the future.

But Allen Shoenberger, a constitutional law professor at Loyola University, says that won't satisfy the state Supreme Court.

“It’s my opinion that are referred to as the consideration model options are both unconstitutional,” Shoenberger said.

He says workers would have to also be given the option to keep what they have, or get offered something they don’t yet have, like a car.

“I think that probably would fly through the Supreme Court," Shoenberger said. "But I haven’t heard anybody offering a car, be it an American-made or foreign-made car as well.”

The consideration model has support from leaders in the Senate, and Governor Bruce Rauner. Many rank-and-file lawmakers have yet to take a position, but labor unions have vowed to challenge the proposal should it become law.

Story source: Illinois Public Radio