* Probably expected…
Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez has torn a gaping hole in pension reform legislation being pushed in Springfield by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
In a move loaded with political implications, Alvarez’s office wrote a legal opinion declaring that the bill “is unconstitutional” because it would reduce benefits in the county’s current pension system without bargaining those changes with employee labor groups.
The bill represents “a unilateral imposition of changed terms, many of which diminish and impair existing retirement annuity benefits,” states the letter, which is signed by Daniel Gallagher, deputy state’s attorney and chief of the Civil Actions Bureau. Preckwinkle’s proposal cannot stand after a recent Illinois Supreme Court decision tossing out pension changes that reduced benefits for state employees, the opinion says.
Preckwinkle’s office had no immediate reaction to the May 21 letter, which is labeled a “confidential attorney client communication.” Crain’s obtained a copy from a source who declined to be named.
The opinion is potentially very bad news for Preckwinkle, whose bill already faced heavy head winds in Springfield, where legislators are caught up in a wider budget war.