Government employees unions have vowed to sue if legislators and Quinn reduce their pension benefits. The Illinois Judges Association, which represents 1,250 active and retired judges, indicates it may file a lawsuit too.
Association President Carol Pope, a 4th District Appellate Court judge based in Springfield, wrote in a recent newsletter that her organization would explore “what contractual and constitutional challenges are viable along with the estimated cost of litigation.” She cited Senate Bill 1313, now on Quinn’s desk, which ends the virtually free health care enjoyed by state and university retirees, General Assembly members and … judges.
The judges aren’t happy. They face the possibility of actually having to pay for all or part of their health care premiums. So they’re considering their legal options.
Take a moment to digest that: If the judges sue the state, they get to rule on their own suit.
Wonder which way they’ll rule? Wonder whether their sympathies lie with taxpayers or with themselves? We’ll see, won’t we.
Jorgensen v. Blagojevich may provide a glimpse. The judges sued former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and the Legislature in 2003 after he stripped their automatic 3 percent cost-of-living pay increases from the budget, saying Illinois taxpayers couldn’t afford them.
So the judges went to court, and some of the judges got to rule:
A circuit court ruled in favor of the judges.
And the Illinois Supreme Court, which heard the case on an expedited schedule (of course it did!), ruled in favor of the judges.
Fast-forward to 2012: Illinois judges remain among the top-paid in the nation. They earn generous pension benefits and, thanks to the Jorgensen case, get their guaranteed 3 percent cost-of-living increases every year.
If the judges file suit to preserve free retiree health care for themselves, will they again rule in their own favor?
Only on constitutional grounds, of course.
* In other pension-related news, Gov. Pat Quinn has launched a new website. From a press release…
Governor Pat Quinn today announced SaveOurState.Illinois.gov, a new resource to empower the people of Illinois to help restore fiscal stability to our state. This new online tool provides helpful background on the state’s Medicaid and pension challenges, details about the governor’s proposed solutions, and the latest media reports on these issues. In addition, SaveOurState.Illinois.gov helps citizens take action by directing them to contact information for their local legislators.
Governor Quinn has laid out a bold plan to rescue our public pension and Medicaid systems. The Governor’s plan will stabilize these two programs, restore fiscal stability to Illinois and strengthen our economic growth. We must be able to provide funding for core government services – things like educating our children, ensuring public safety and access to basic human services. Every dollar we spend on pensions and Medicaid is a dollar we don’t spend on grants, community programs and initiatives that many of us depend upon.
We need you to tell your State Representatives and Senators that we must take immediate action to stabilize and restructure these two systems.
* Mautino: State working on pension, budget, sustainability of DNR: Mautino late Monday said he was not ready to discuss exact details of the plan but indicated, if approved, proposed measures should help to keep the state park system “limping along” through 2013 and to avoid annual park-closure discussions. He said after fiscal year 2013, funding mechanisms proposed in committee should kick in and help stabilize the DNR. One proposal he did reveal was a way to support state parks through license plate fees instead of the state incurring the expense of constructing toll booths and hiring park sticker sellers. Though he did not reveal all details, a goal, he said, would be to allow people withIllinoisplates into the parks without restriction and to request that people with out-of-state plates report to park offices for permission or registration. It would be impossible to station fee-takers at parks with dozens of entry points, such asHennepin Canal State Parkway.
* Roll-your-own smokes may face tax hikes: Politicians in at least 12 other states have taken up the roll-your-own tax issue, and a handful have put new laws on the books reflecting Illinois’ concerns.
* Press Release: AFP-IL converges on Springfield to demand pension reform: On Wednesday, the Illinois chapter of Americans for Prosperity, America’s largest organization advocating for economic freedom, will join Illinois taxpayers in delivering “leftovers” to Illinois’ legislative leaders to make the point they are tired of receiving the funding leftovers from the General Assembly and to demand pension reform.
* More potholes in Illinois’ future?: Money meant for maintaining state highways could be paying for some of the Illinois Department of Transportation’s day-to-day expenses. Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget diverts almost $250 million from the state’s road fund, fueled by the state’s motor fuel tax and vehicle license fees, to pay IDOT’s health-care, workers’ compensation, and building rent and maintenance costs, according to Transportation for Illinois Coalition, which pushes for an up-to-date transportation infrastructure in Illinois.
While the greatest generation enjoys their free entitlements the X and Y generation have to deal with the possibility of no social security and pension insolvency.
- Yellow Dog Democrat - Wednesday, May 16, 12 @ 11:32 am:
Bring out your pots and kettles!
Just this month, Tribune Corporation executives sent their lawyers to the courts, asked for and received permission to pay out $45 million in bonuses to themselves and 400 top managers.
In federal bankruptcy court.
For those of you doing the math, the average annual bonus is over $100,000.
While in bankruptcy.
It takes some moxie to criticize how judges MIGHT rule on a case involving whether or not employers should be required to keep their past promises and accusing judges of self-interest.
That said, it is a good news scoop.
P.S. Recalling judges is a bad and unnecessary idea. They are up for periodic retention election, which enables the public to hold them accountable while keeping an arms length from p.r. efforts to inflame public passions in an effort to bias our courts.
Enabling recall would contort our legal system and impair the ability of judges to fulfill their duty to protect our basic criminal and civil rights.
Anxious to see what is in Mautino’s bill. I wish something could have been done sooner. Some of these parks and their needs have fallen so far behind. Staff disappeared, then the operational/equipment funds…it’s been a sad thing to watch.
If Americans for Prosperity gets any mention in the press, please point out that its co-founder is ultraconservative David Koch of the infmamous brothers. And please reconsider your labeling the Civic Federation as “nonpartisan,” as the Tribune, AP and others have done recently. While technically true, the organization unquestionably has a right-wing agenda.
“Every dollar we spend on pensions and Medicaid is a dollar we don’t spend on grants, community programs and initiatives that many of us depend upon.”
I thought many of those grants, community programs and initiatives done by community based social service agencies through DHS were Medicaid based. I must be mistaken.
- Steve Bartin - Wednesday, May 16, 12 @ 11:40 am:
Judges hearing cases where they have a DIRECT conflict of interest because it affects their compensation is a constitutional crisis. Parties will have to agree to mediation or accept that they might not get a pension check in the future. This is a big issue.
- Yellow Dog Democrat - Wednesday, May 16, 12 @ 11:40 am:
Have you had that conversation with your parents and grandparents yet? Let me know how it goes.
I, for one, am grateful for the sacrifices my great-grandparents, grandparents and parents made for me. I don’t begrudge them for the fact that social security has cut the poverty rate for the elderly in half, more that Medicare and Medicaid ensure basic human access to health care and dignity in their golden years.
Nor do I begrudge the bulk of public employees for their modest retirement incomes. Nor expect them to pay for the fact that the folks we elected failed to act responsibly by raising taxes or cutting corporate tax breaks to pay for the future promises we were making.
Let’s stop victimizing Gen X and Gen Y. Previous generations have done pretty well by us. We have the opportunity to vote, and in national elections we’ve voted in overwhelming numbers. But we mostly ignore state and local elections, to our own detriment. If you’re looking for someone to blame, look in the mirror, then ask your Facebook friends how many of them voted in the 2010 gubernatorial election.
Judges….what hogs. there are other former government employees on pensions from other systems who pay their health care costs. why should the highly paid former employees from the state system not pay for health care?
Wonder which way they’ll rule? Wonder whether their sympathies lie with taxpayers or with themselves? We’ll see, won’t we.
What type of journalist are you? Why wouldn’t the Judges involved in a case such as this not be able to base their ruling on the honest FACTS, by your comments the Judges are not capable of being honest…. get over yourself. State, County and various City workers in Illinois, gave up pay raises in negotiations in the past and instead they earned medical insurance coverage and other pension benefits, agreed to by all parties. You and others make it sound like all employees who receive health insurance and pension benefits in Illinois are stealing and not worthy of an honest days pay for an honest day of work… You owe the Judges an apology. Maybe the leaders in Illinois should have properly funded the benefits they bargained for and not been so quick to spend dollars on their pet projects or special interests…. everyone knows who the abusers are in Illinois and across the country… But let’s not go there, right?
Judges are judges because they are supposed to know the law and be able determine what is and isn’t constitutional, and they are supposed to rule that way. So I would think that any lawsuit brought forth by a judge’s association would have already been thought through and judged by that association to be pretty valid before it is ever filed. Therefore it should naturally be a foregone conclusion that the judges association would almost be assured that their suits would be ruled on favorably. Wouldn’t you think?
As a Springfield outsider it’s pretty clear Democrats would have been better served as a party losing in 2010, making Brady do these cuts and having the state move on. It’s pretty clear democrats really have no desire to make these cuts and aren’t enjoying jousting with their allies. They’re just not a party cut out to do this kind of work.
- Both Sides Now - Wednesday, May 16, 12 @ 12:11 pm:
I like the idea of being able to express my preferences on Medicaid cuts but the tool doesn’t work well. It doesn’t appear I can submit my views unless I use Twitter and I don’t tweet. Short-sighted since most that the cuts would actually affect aren’t of the generation that Tweets anyway. Further, if you hover on the cut for more info, it just reiterates what the cut is. If you go online and do research and find the list of cuts with explanations from the Governor (previously posted/linked on Cap Fax), then the categories (cost reduction, eligibility cut, etc.) don’t always match - which makes it confusing to figure out what is meant by what.
If the Senate Dems really want our input, they should fix the aforementioned points and include a “submit” button. But then again, maybe this is all for show….
===As a Springfield outsider it’s pretty clear Democrats would have been better served as a party losing in 2010, making Brady do these cuts and having the state move on.===
Unless you want to “Primary” a vulenrable Quinn, in which that Primary Election will lead to a certain Attorney General becoming the Nominee against any of the 3,268 Repubs thinking they can run, including Pongee’s Owner and any Repub member of the GA with a “Sen.” in front of their name.
That certain Attorney General has to be liking these odds more and more every day.
- Cook County Commoner - Wednesday, May 16, 12 @ 12:21 pm:
I think the Trib editorial is a teaser for another issue: Whether corruption in Illinois is so pervasive that its judges will rule on an issue directly impacting their finances. Presumably,the more precise issue will be whether alteration of the present health insurance payment plan for government employees, which includes judges, violates the state constitution’s pension impairment clause (Art XIII, Sec. 5). If Illinois courts proceed to ruling on the merits of the constitutional issue without a long and extensive consideration of alternatives (mediation or somehow transferring the issue to the federal court system), I fear that the credibility of the Illinois court system will plummet below that of the state assembly. And reightfully so.
- Leave a Light on George - Wednesday, May 16, 12 @ 12:21 pm:
If retired Illinois judges can’t file a suit in Illinois over Illinois pension benefits where does the Tribune expect them to file it?
Yea Judges. Before the case of the 3% ruling was out the Comptroller held the Judge’s increases up. Shortly after the Judges prevailed the Comptroller was, by legislation, the new keeper of the Court Reporters payroll division. The small department is still there today. Message received.
- Yellow Dog Democrat - Wednesday, May 16, 12 @ 12:28 pm:
Great idea. Let’s get rid of the Constitution and the Rule of Law and base our entire legal system on whatever cable news station or show has the highest rating.
Better yet, let’s replace “American Idol” with a reality t.v. show where the t.v. audience phones in to vote on how cases should be decided.
I say let the Illinois judges rule! That is why they are judges. Judges seldom get things wrong otherwise we would all have to be asking, “who are they to judge?”. If you cannot even trust judges to be objective then think what that means for the entire Illinois legal system as a whole.
“Every dollar we spend on pensions and Medicaid is a dollar we don’t spend on grants, community programs and initiatives that many of us depend upon.” “that get us votes” is what he should have added.
I know there are grants that pay for important things. But in a time when agencies don’t have enough money to cover their expenses why are we giving grants out of that agency’s budget? Example: DNR is on very tenuous footing, many of their facilities are falling apart. Yet the Gov recently gave $50 million in grants from DNR to communities and park districts for them to fix their deteriorating buildings. What??
Also I would like to know how much of the pothole money is going to CMS for “building rent and maintenance costs.” Because many state owned buildings are actually now owned by CMS, and the agencies that use them pay rent to CMS even though the building might have been originally bought by the agency using the building. The using agency also pays CMS for any upkeep or maintenance.
The same is true for vehicles. The using agency purchases them out of their budget. But once they are bought they become the property of CMS and CMS controls the upkeep and maintenance, charging a fee to the agency for use of the CMS garage and a fee for administrating the repairs even though CMS is the only place you can take the vehicle for repairs. And when the vehicle is turned in, it goes to CMS and they get any money the vehicle brings at auction or scrap.
If the judges go to court, the other employee groups should seek to join the litigation.
Whatever the courts rule for the judges ought ot apply to all classes.
- Homer J. Simpson - Wednesday, May 16, 12 @ 12:49 pm:
The Medicaid fix wasn’t that hard. I just clicked the “All” button.
- Political Junkie - Wednesday, May 16, 12 @ 12:52 pm:
-Anon and Yellow Dog Democrat
It is not constitutional to tie COLA’s to inflation. Take a look at your Illinois constitution. “You can not diminish or impair benefits.” I wish that we could cut the COLA’s down but it doesn’t seem possible. Look at Florida and Rhode Island and what has happened to them.
Ours is a Constitutional form of government. A Basic tenant is an independent judiciary .
Constitutional and contractual provisions designed to achieve that goal will be at the heart of this issue. Some may be applicable to other current and past public employee pensions as well.
Legitimately upholding the Constitution is certainly not sinister.
The State’s multiple and blatant failures to properly contribute the employers share to the pension funds, coupled with the shady management practices revealed in the recent federal trials , and the various ongoing abuses like pension padding cannot be justified on any basis or level.
(Evil Peter commits the crime and Illinois hangs Innocent Paul ?)
- Leave a Light on George - Wednesday, May 16, 12 @ 1:03 pm:
=The same is true for vehicles. The using agency purchases them out of their budget. But once they are bought they become the property of CMS and CMS controls the upkeep and maintenance, charging a fee to the agency for use of the CMS garage and a fee for administrating the repairs even though CMS is the only place you can take the vehicle for repairs. And when the vehicle is turned in, it goes to CMS and they get any money the vehicle brings at auction or scrap.=
This takes place on nearly every transaction within state government from building rent/maintenance to computer purchases. CMS charges agency for its “service” even though the agency has no say in the matter. The state charging the state! It wastes multiple millions of $.
The roll your own machines issue is interesting from a categorization point of view. What if the customer buys the paper, buys the tobacco then merely uses the machine to create his/her cigs? So the merchant simply provides the machine as a courtesy to the customers? I’m not sure why this should be taxed the same as factory produced cigs.
Also, I think I dislike the convenience stores far more than I dislike Mom and Pop tobacco stores. And I’m definitely not in favor of businesses using their lobbyists to gain competitive edge.
–What if the customer buys the paper, buys the tobacco then merely uses the machine to create his/her cigs? –
That is, indeed, the business model.
I have a shirttail in-law who has a cigarette store just across the DuPage line. He has two machines, and they are an effort to dodge both local, state and federal cigarette taxes. Not a big part of his business, but the margin is better.
The federales are catching on, too. The dude I know thinks it’s only a matter of time before the price-point advantage is gone.
Still better money to be made, I hear, by boosting tax stamps and bootlegging out of the Carolinas.
- steve schnorf - Wednesday, May 16, 12 @ 1:41 pm:
I really doubt that any of the very experienced people who have been crafting the pension and health insurance proposals failed to understand that
a) someone is going to sue
b) the changes impact judges
c) judges hear lawsuits
cermak_rd - We purchased from one of these shops in Wisconsin. The clerks never referred to the product as a cigarette. They were smokes. You chose your tobacco from assorted containers of loose tobacco. You purchased a cassette of tubes that you chose from assorted sizes, etc. You then were allowed to use their machine, by yourself. The loose tobacco is poured in the top, the cassette of tubes is inserted in the front, you push a button and the smokes come out in a tray on the bottom front. You collect them in a plastic tray that the cassette of tubes came in. And you are done.
- Retired Non-Union Guy - Wednesday, May 16, 12 @ 1:48 pm:
Agreed. I’ve thought all along it was structured in such a way that the courts would most likely overturn it and then the GA could say “we tried, but the courts said we couldn’t do it” so now we have to (a) cut more or (b) raise taxes while blaming the judges.
But in the meantime the uncertainity sure upsets a lot of poeple’s lives.
Maybe the very experienced people are piggy-backing on the judges? After all, they are attorneys. One very experienced person saw the Mercer Plan fail today.
- Political Junkie - Wednesday, May 16, 12 @ 1:58 pm:
Yes there are cases on both sides. But what you have to look at in Illinois is the transcripts that they have from the Constitutional Convention that give the exact intent of the delegates regarding that section of the constitution and it is pretty clear, that is something that Colorado, Minnesota, and South Dakota didn’t have. Ultimately it comes down to what a judge in Illinois thinks.
- Retired Non-Union Guy - Wednesday, May 16, 12 @ 2:10 pm:
The full transcripts for the Con-Con are online; easy to find and access.
- Yellow Dog Democrat - Wednesday, May 16, 12 @ 2:19 pm:
I agree. The only people who fail to understand those points — at least it would seem — are Republicans pushing proposals whose Constitutionality is dubious at best.
Atleast I understand where the advocates for over-reaching pension proposals are coming from. Every ten years, many of the same folks push caps on medical malpractice awards that they KNOW are unconstitutional. But that serves three purposes:
1) it distracts the public’s attention from workable solutions, which would take food off their plate;
2) It offers red meat to their members;
3) It keeps those lobbyists, communications firms, and other consultants employed.
@Robert - You are correct that a cut must first be selected for the additional info to appear. We’ve updated the instructions in the post to make this more clear.
@Both Sides Now - As just mentioned, we updated our instructions to try and make this more clear, but you must first select the cut and then hover over it on the graphic display to get the description. We appreciate your patience with us as we utilize a piece of free online software with limited customizable options to make this complex information as accessible as possible. Lastly, your comments are always welcomed on our online feedback form, not just on Twitter. We have updated the post to state this explicitly. You can find the form here: http://www.illinoissenatedemocrats.com/index.php/contact-us/feedback
@Homer J. Simpson - As stated in the instructions, clicking “All” will choose both a 6% and a 7-9% provider rate cut. It is not possible to implement both. Therefore, to get a genuine picture of a Medicaid solution, you much choose either Option A or Option B for a provider rate cut. Please feel free to use our comment form, linked above, if you have futher questions.
I’ve said it for the last two days in my posts. Neither the GA or AFSCME is going to determine how much, if anything, retirees are going to have to start paying towards their health insurance; the courts are going to decide this. I think it will be ruled an unconstitutional reduction in what was promised to them when these people retired. Like it or not.
- soon to be a retiree - Wednesday, May 16, 12 @ 7:12 pm:
I am attorney with 30 years of State Service and am almost 66 years old. I gave up the idea of private practice after being inspired by JFK to do public service. I now make less than a beginning associate in a firm inspite of having serveral superior performance evaluations. I knew I would never be rich, but based on the pension and benefits promised to me by Statute and the Constitution I should have been ok. I decided 1/1 of last year to retire 6/30 of this year and submitted my retirement forms and resignation letter prior to all the new legislation being introduced. I’m currently not sure that I will now be ok but I still have to leave the end of June. With regard to the health insurance premiums for retirees I’m not sure if it’s a consitutional issue but I do know that it was part of my employment contract and I fulfiiled my part by more than 10 years over what is necessary. This also included ending up working in the State with the lowest per capita ratio of state employee to citizen and doing the work that 3 people used to do after they left and were not replaced. I have had to put in extra time to keep my head without the income I would have gotten in the private sector based on my hours. Then paying for my premiums on top of copays, deductible and disallowed amounts would not be an issue for me.
- soon to be a retiree - Wednesday, May 16, 12 @ 7:15 pm:
I forgot to add that just because one is a judge he or she should not be expected to waive a constitutional right or ignore an employment contract he or she has fulfilled.
- PublicServant - Wednesday, May 16, 12 @ 8:01 pm:
Current pension-bashing = Political BS
Paying your bills = Reality
The sooner the state realizes it, the better.
- is it really asking too much? - Wednesday, May 16, 12 @ 8:01 pm:
Understand also that adding/increasing premium payments for state workers/teachers is right out of the playbook of Governors Walker and Christie. Why was it wrong for them; but is ok for Illinois? (just saying this based purely on policy - irrespective of the differing constitutions)
As far as judges ruling on issues that affect them, do the word recusal ring a bell?
- The Great Unwashed - Wednesday, May 16, 12 @ 10:04 pm:
The Tribune article isn’t a scoop. It’s a hatchet job. And while the Trib’s standing as a newspaper has been slipping for a long time, this editorial is a new low. As for the wailing about recusal, or mediation, or letting a federal judge hear it, folks it ain’t going to happen. There is no state constitutional provision or statute for such a dispute to be heard in another venue. Interestingly enough, when Congress passed similar legislation diminishing the benefits of federal judges, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the issue on appeal.