* Jacob Huebert at Illinois Review looks at the three lawsuits filed to overturn the new pension reform law…
All three suits allege that the law violates the Pension Clause because it makes modest reductions to annual increases in retiree benefits, commonly referred to as COLAs. The Cook County suit also alleges that the law’s increases in retirement age for some workers and its (generous) cap on pensionable salaries violate the Pension Clause.
The lawsuits’ claims don’t have merit. The COLA reduction doesn’t touch the benefits workers have already earned, but only limits increases going forward. COLAs are a way for the Illinois General Assembly to help retirees keep up with changes in the cost of living, which may fluctuate over time; by their nature, they’re not written in stone.
As for the higher retirement age, the Illinois Supreme Court has already held that the Pension Clause allows a change in workers’ retirement age even if it indirectly affects the benefits they will receive. And the pensionable salary cap – which, at more than $110,000 for participants in the Teachers’ Retirement System in 2014, is unlikely to leave anyone destitute – doesn’t violate the Pension Clause because it only affects benefits workers will earn for work done in the future, not benefits they’ve already earned.