The union coalition also contends the pension law is a violation of the state constitution’s contracts clause and breaches another constitutional provision — the so-called takings clause — which prevents a person’s private property from being taken away for public use without “just compensation.”
As part of the “takings” argument, the unions raise the issue of the legal theory of consideration. They counter that provisions in the new law that reduce the current employee contributions to their pensions by 1 percentage point and allow pension systems to file suit to ensure state government pays its proper share for retirement are inadequate and were never agreed upon.
The lawsuit alleged the changes foisted upon public employees are “substantial and will grow in magnitude over the course” a person’s retirement, a point that underscores why the new law is “unconstitutional and unfair.”
By way of example, the lawsuit highlighted the cases of 25 active and retired government workers. One was Chicagoan Lee Ayers, who has worked about 25 years as a clinical lab technician at a state university and expects to get an initial pension of $53,366 when he retires in 2019. Under the new law, he would lose more than $218,000 if he spends 25 years in retirement, the lawsuit contended.
In contrast, the new law lowers the regular pension deduction from his paycheck by 1 percentage point. That means he’d get to keep an extra $3,733 before he retires — a major difference from what he’d give up, according to the court papers.
* Lee Newspapers…
The 55-page suit notes the plaintiffs have “faithfully” contributed to their pension systems during their tenure with the state.
“Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the state,” the lawsuit notes. “The state chose to forgo funding its pension systems in amounts the state now claims were needed to fully meet the state’s annuity obligations. Now, the state expects the members of those systems to carry on their backs the burden of curing the state’s longstanding misconduct.”
“Misconduct” is a pretty harsh word.
Tuesday’s lawsuit comes on the heels of other similar lawsuits that the Illinois Attorney General’s office has asked be consolidated into one case to be heard in Cook County. But the We Are One Illinois coalition filed its case in Sangamon County, home to Springfield, the state Capitol, and thousands of public workers.
The difference in location could prove significant in the outcome of the case. House Speaker Michael Madigan takes credit for negotiating the compromise and putting the needed votes on the bill for approval. Critics of the law express concerns about whether the suit could come before a Cook County judge who has connections to Madigan, who also serves as the chairman of the state’s Democratic Party.
The case is expected to eventually be argued in front of the Illinois State Supreme Court.
The case was assigned to Sangamon County Circuit Judge Peter C. Cavanagh, according to the court’s electronic docket. Running unopposed as a Republican, Cavanagh was elected to a six-year term in 2010, according to Sangamon County voting records.
Legal experts agree the case filed Tuesday in a Sangamon County Circuit Court will eventually find its way to the Illinois Supreme Court. The litigation certainly will take months, perhaps more than a year.
“This landmark law was urgently needed to resolve the state’s $100 billion pension crisis,” said Mr. Quinn in a statement. “We expect it to be upheld as constitutional.”
Said a spokeswoman for Senate GOP Leader GOP Christine Radogno, “We are hopeful the court will move expeditiously so that we can stabilize the systems for the participants and save taxpayers.” Though unions are unhappy, the law will cut taxpayer payments more than 40 percent over the next three decades, she added.
And from Mr. Cullerton: “I supported (the law) to break the political impasse between the Senate and House, (and) to send a test case to the courts.”
By contrast, Rutherford is not a believer in the law that passed the House and Senate and that Quinn enacted into law. In a brief interview Tuesday, the treasurer said he believes it’s unconstitutional and that pension reform of any sort should be negotiated with the unions.
“We anticipated this latest lawsuit by the We Are One Illinois coalition regarding the new pension law,” Rutherford said in a prepared statement. “We will now wait and see how the Supreme Court rules.”