A Sangamon County judge stopped Illinois’ state pension overhaul law from taking effect Wednesday, issuing a stay on the law until the court can rule on its constitutionality.
Two lawyers representing plaintiffs in the case said that Circuit Judge Jon Belz issued the order to stop the pension law that reduces retirees’ benefits and increases their contributions from taking effect this summer. […]
The House author of the changes, Rep. Elaine Nekritz, noted that none of the savings officials expect to reap from the changes are factored into the state budget for this year.
“I would have been shocked had there not been a stay,” the Northbrook Democrat said. “It should have been stayed and we should wait to see frankly what the Supreme Court tells us.”
“I do think it has led to great confusion … almost across-the-board confusion,” Belz said in a Sangamon County courtroom as he issued a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction blocking implementation of the law until further action of the court or resolution of the case. “There’s just too much uncertainty.” […]
The attorney general’s office had reached a proposed agreement that was much more limited — to delay for a year implementation of the law for university and community college employees.
But Belz’s ruling went further than that proposed agreement.
Aaron Maduff, a lawyer for the State Universities Annuitants Association, said the proposed agreement had been just “half a loaf” compared to the preliminary injunction issued by Belz.
Judge John Belz recognized the retirees and others in the pension systems could suffer “irreparable harm” if the law is allowed to go forward while the constitutionality issues is still being fought out in the courts, according to his order. The case is expected to wind up in the Illinois Supreme Court. […]
Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat and a pension expert, said she did not think the judge’s ruling would slow down attempts by Cook County to overhaul its retirement systems. But many at the Capitol are feeling what is being called “pension fatigue” following reforms approved for state plans, which the governor signed into law, and some of the city of Chicago plans, which Quinn has not yet said whether he will sign.
Maura Possley, a spokeswoman for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who is defending the law, said the ruling was under review.
“The goal of the pension reform law is to stabilize the pension systems. Unfortunately, this decision will likely further burden the systems and hurt taxpayers,” Possley said.
* Full react from the governor’s budget office…
We believe this law is constitutional. This landmark law was urgently needed to resolve the state’s $100 billion pension crisis.
It was also urgently needed to ensure that teachers, university employees and state workers who have faithfully contributed to the pension system have retirement security.
We’re confident the courts will uphold this critical law that stabilizes the state’s pension funds while squarely addressing the most pressing fiscal crisis of our time by eliminating the state’s unfunded pension debt, a standard first set by Governor Quinn.
Today’s stay was not unexpected and will have no impact in this or next year’s budget.
* From We Are One Illinois…
This stays the legislation in its entirety so that the pension systems and other defendants are enjoined from implementing or administering any provisions of the act until further order of the court or the court issues a final ruling on the merits of the act’s constitutionality.
The court found that plaintiffs have shown a likelihood of success on their contention that Public Act 98-599 violates the Pension Protection Clause of the Illinois Constitution.
“This is an important first step in our efforts to overturn this unfair, unconstitutional law and to protect retirement security for working and retired Illinois families,” said Michael T. Carrigan, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO, on behalf of the coalition. “We are pleased the court prudently chose to halt implementation of these sweeping changes, which have caused so much fear and uncertainty and are likely to be overturned.”