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County Teasurer ruling darkens pension bill future

Friday, Apr 25, 2014

Posted by Barton Lorimor (@bartonlorimor)

* If you’re counting on the state pension bill to survive the Constitutionality test, thi certainly doesn’t help…

In a case with implications for the upcoming legal battle over pension reform, an Illinois appellate court in Springfield ruled that constitutional protections prevent the state from reducing mandated payments to county treasurers.

The pension protection clause of the Illinois Constitution, which says that workers’ retirement benefits can’t be diminished, is at the heart of lawsuits challenging statewide pension changes enacted late last year.

While the county treasurers’ case relies on other language in the constitution, the appellate court’s decision yesterday is analogous, using the same legal arguments and precedents that teachers and other state workers are pressing in court against pension reform.

“It supports the arguments we have been making and will continue to make,” said John Fitzgerald, partner in Chicago law firm Tabet DiVito & Rothstein LLC, which represents retired teachers and school administrators, both active and retired, in a suit challenging the pension law.

Under Illinois law, county treasurers are supposed to get an annual $6,500 stipend from the state. The treasurers sued when their annual stipends were reduced to $4,196 in the year ended June 30, 2010.

The state even pointed to a shortage in the General Assembly’s appropriation, but that argument didn’t get them anywhere.

* A pension round-up…

* Sun-Times: Reject firefighter staffing bill: Why then, we can only wonder, is the Illinois Legislature seemingly so eager to get behind a bill that would give labor unions more say in how many firefighters and paramedics a town must hire? The bill would take hiring decisions, in part, out of the hands of those best positioned to decide right — elected officials, village managers and other professional staff. And the bill would drive up costs for dozens of already cash-strapped suburbs and towns. (Want to guess how often the firefighters union in a typical town thinks there are enough firefighters?) The bill in Springfield — already passed by 63-44 in the House and headed for Senate — would make firefighter staffing levels part of labor contract negotiations. The Senate should pour water all over this one. Drown it.

* Mayor Emanuel criticized for proposed property tax hike

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- Posted by Barton Lorimor        

  1. - Archimedes - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 12:00 pm:

    The appellate decision is not unlike the previous ISC decision where Blago attempted to short the judges during their term.

    In reading the comments to the article in Crains, I am amazed at how people still don’t understand the problem. The unfunded liability of $96 billion is money owed for pension credit for service already performed - you can never change that without offer and acceptance. You can’t change the constitution in the present (some propose an amendment altering the pension clause) and eliminate the debt incurred from past service - that is prohibited by State and Federal constitutions (no ex post facto law).

  2. - VanillaMan - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 12:13 pm:

    There will need to be another way to handle this debt load. Between the sacred cows surrounding it and the state constitution protecting it, there will need to be another way of handling this debt.

    What if we had a governor who understood high finance, instead of patronage? Hmmmm….

  3. - PublicServant - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 12:15 pm:

    What if we had a governor and legislature who understood the State and Federal Constitutions? Hmmmmmm…

  4. - PublicServant - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 12:18 pm:

    ===There will need to be another way to handle this debt load.===

    Pay it by eliminating the State’s structural deficit might be legal, but I’m not a lawyer.

  5. - Norseman - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 12:32 pm:

    This is another sideshow for the main event. As Archimedes points out, there has been a Supreme Court ruling that dealt with this type of issue.

  6. - Precinct Captain - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 12:34 pm:

    “What if we had a governor who understood high finance, instead of patronage? Hmmmm….”

    But Bruce Rauner is a salesman, not an analyst, as he himself says, so who are you referring to? Third party candidates?

  7. - Norseman - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 12:37 pm:

    === What if we had a governor who understood high finance, instead of patronage? Hmmmm…. ===

    What if we had a General Assembly and Chief Executive who could read the constitution and understand that it’s meant to be followed? If they had, they could have worked on a real solution to the problem.

  8. - Frenchie Mendoza - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 12:57 pm:

    If this is the case — and it’s no surprise of course given the language in the constitution — how can Rauner with a straight fae continue to claim that he’ll force all *current* employees into 401k?

    Obviously, he’s using the claim to gain votes — but he can’t be serious about actually doing it. And if he is — if he is serious — he’s mad. If a 401K is *not* a diminishment, I don’t know what is.

  9. - Mason born - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 1:13 pm:


    I’ve always wondered if the Forced is more i’ll offer you a deal you can’t refuse.

  10. - Frenchie Mendoza - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 1:15 pm:

    I suspect he’s considered the I’ll-fire-all-state-employees-and-then-rehire-them under new retirement rules.

  11. - dupage dan - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 1:25 pm:

    First Arizona and now this. Can Quinn still call this an up day? If you are a state employee (include me in that) how can you have many positive thoughts about him? If you are a retired state employee how can you consider voting for him? I know folks can say Rauner hates unions and all that. But with Quinn, there are real statements. Real actions. Not just words but deeds.

  12. - PublicServant - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 1:36 pm:

    DD, I always vote, so I’m not staying home. I loathe the idea of voting for Quinn, but I’d rather vote FOR the goof I know, rather than the alternative, when the alternative is attempting to make a mockery of our democracy by buying the office. That, to me, is the most important consideration. Secondly, when you vote, you can’t vote against someone, you have to vote for someone. Even if I could get by the his attempt to purchase the office, there’s nothing, absolutely nothing to vote FOR in him.

  13. - Cowboy - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 1:45 pm:

    Related to Archimedes above - another of those often-overlooked issues that is quite relevant to “the problem” - do an Internet search for “Illinois legislator compensation” and see what you find. Then compare with every state that shares a border with Illinois. And who are the next highest? Oops - Michigan and Wisconsin. Is there a pattern here related to fiscal messes at the state level?

  14. - UIC guy - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 1:48 pm:

    @Frenchie If he gives people the choice between 1. losing their jobs but keeping the (pre-December 2013) retirement benefits already ; and 2. being rehired under a much less favorable retirement plan (backdated to when they started working for the state) —if that’s the choice then we’re going to see a huge rush for the exits.

    @PublicServant: I’m with you on this. Many votes you have to hold your nose to cast, and voting for Squeezy would take a tighter squeeze than most, but what’s the alternative?

    @ Everyone: any news/rumors about Maag?

  15. - Geronimo - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 1:49 pm:

    Maybe all the blatant defiance of the constitution along with (the 2) farcical candidates explains,in part, why Illinoisans feel so negatively about our state. Where are the decent, moral politicians?

  16. - dupage dan - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 1:51 pm:

    PS === when the alternative is attempting to make a mockery of our democracy by buying the office ===

    You mean like when Quinn blew $50 million bucks on a fubar crime program just before the last election?

    I understand the frustration, believe me. I have been in state service 24 years and am tired of it. The only difference I see here, frankly, is that Quinn is actually DOING it, while Rauner is just SAYING it. Folks say all kinds of things in order to get elected and then - POOF - they get into office and things can change. Problem is, not always for the better. The bird in the hand is inedible. The bird in the bush will kill you. Nice choice, huh?

  17. - AFSCME Steward - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 1:56 pm:


    “Then compare with every state that shares a border with Illinois. And who are the next highest? Oops - Michigan and Wisconsin. Is there a pattern here related to fiscal messes at the state level?”

    Michigan doesn’t share a border with Illinois.

  18. - anon - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 1:57 pm:

    Illinois Supreme Court usually announces opinions a few days in advance. Go to home page on website and click on “anticipated Opinions” on the left. No Maag yet but keep checking.

  19. - anon - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 1:59 pm:

    If Maag rules that health benefits are not constitutionally protected, the line of authority relied on in the treasurer case will not apply.

  20. - Norseman - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 2:01 pm:

    === I suspect he’s considered the I’ll-fire-all-state-employees-and-then-rehire-them under new retirement rules. ===

    LOL. Nice snark.

  21. - Norseman - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 2:08 pm:

    === If Maag rules that health benefits are not constitutionally protected, the line of authority relied on in the treasurer case will not apply. ===

    Please explain. Before I agree or disagree, I want to understand your point.

  22. - Skeptic - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 2:23 pm:

    “Michigan doesn’t share a border with Illinois.” If I’m not mistaken, it does. You just have to get wet to see it.

  23. - anon - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 2:32 pm:

    In stating that the separation of powers doctrine could not stop the courts from issuing an order requiring the State to pay the treasurer stipend despite lack of appropriation, the court limited its holding to matters protected by the constitution. In other words, if an adverse ruling in Maag is based on a finding that health benefits do not fall within the pension clause or another provision of the Illinois constitution, that opinion may have little impact on the pension litigation.

  24. - Geronimo - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 2:33 pm:

    Good point, dupage dan about Quinn actually DOING damage to state employees and Rauner just talking about it. How cooperative would the legislature be with Rauner in office vs. Quinn? A factor to consider when having to choose between 2 poisons.

  25. - Old Shepherd - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 2:33 pm:

    Regarding the treasurers, in Harlan v. Sweet the Supreme Court determined that treasurers’ stipends are indeed to be considered compensation. I’m no attorney, but I don’t see how Maag changes anything regarding the line of authority on the treasurers’ case.

  26. - Tsavo - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 2:44 pm:

    Check out this article about the pension seminar.

  27. - Cowboy - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 2:45 pm:

    AFSCME Steward - Michigan shares a border with Illinois via a water border in Lake Michigan.

  28. - anon - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 2:56 pm:

    Just checked and the Illinois Supreme Court is not hearing arguments next week. Would love to know whether any of the justices are attending the Koch Brothers pension theft propaganda fest. Reporters? How about a FOIA request for their schedules? Would be a bombshell article if anyone attended.

  29. - Walter Mitty - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 3:20 pm:

    Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

    Albert Einstein

    See Illinois voting in the same politicians.

  30. - I B Strapped - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 3:25 pm:

    Public Servant @ 1:36- Don’t wish to be argumentative but I’ve read and re-read your comment and I don’t see the positive reason to vote FOR an incompetent GOOF, who I feel has Bleeped me! I don’t think I could possibly vote for Rauner either as a friend of my enemy may not be my friend. So, IMHO, dare I say it- It’s a Hot, Steaming Mess.

  31. - Norseman - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 3:36 pm:

    - anon - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 2:32 pm

    Thank you for the explanation.

  32. - RNUG - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 4:00 pm:

    - anon - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 2:32 pm: &
    - Norseman - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 3:36 pm:

    Regardless of any Pension Clause protection or lack thereof, I suspect any Maag / Kanerva ruling will center on contract law since one of the trail level findings said there was no contract. If the ISC finds there is or may be a presumption of a contract (as found by Appellate in Marconi v Joliet), then I would think the Constitution’s Contract Clause should apply.

  33. - forwhatitsworth - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 4:00 pm:

    Has anyone ever heard of Ralph Martire?

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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