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Cullerton, Senators Respond to Supreme Court Pension Ruling (UPDATED)

 Illinois Senate President Responds to Supreme Court Pension RulingSPRINGFIELD – Senate President John J. Cullerton issued the following statement in response to the Supreme Court ruling in Heaton v. Quinn:

“From the beginning of our pension reform debates, I expressed concern about the constitutionality of the plan that we ultimately advanced as a test case for the court.  Today, the Illinois Supreme Court declared that regardless of political considerations or fiscal circumstances, state leaders cannot renege on pension obligations. This ruling is a victory for retirees, public employees and everyone who respects the plain language of our Constitution.

That victory, however, should be balanced against the grave financial realities we will continue to face without true reforms. If there are to be any lasting savings in pension reform, we must face this reality within the confines of the Pension Clause. I stand ready to work with all parties to advance a real solution that adheres to the Illinois Constitution.”

Other Senators' responses to the decision:


Senator Daniel Biss (D - Evanston): "Today the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that Senate Bill 1 is unconstitutional. While this is not the opinion the authors of SB1 had hoped for, we must respect the Court and strictly adhere to this ruling. The Pension Clause of the Illinois Constitution provides important protections, and today's ruling proves the depth of those protections. The state of Illinois and many of its local governments are still facing serious fiscal problems, including significant pension debt. I look forward to working with all parties to find ways to ensure that adequate resources are available to properly fund our pension systems, in the context of a responsible budget that funds crucial services. Our public employees, our government bodies and our taxpayers deserve nothing less."

State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13): "Today, the state’s highest court affirmed that, as in all matters, we are bound by the plain language of the Illinois Constitution on the question of public employee benefits. This is not surprising news, nor is it an unwelcome reminder; constitutional limits protect us all – especially in times of fiscal crisis. The Court effectively illustrated the cyclical nature of economic fortunes, noting that Illinois faced a pension funding emergency at the time our current constitution was drafted. The rule of law remains a guiding constant. This decision is a call to go back to the negotiating table and get serious about the range of options available to us to repair the state’s finances and meet its obligations in ways consistent with the constitution, sustainable for the future and fair to all concerned.

"A number of approaches remain open to us, but the Court has made clear that the constitution’s prohibition on unilateral modifications applies to the lifetime of the contract made at the time of employment, not merely to benefits already accrued. We return to our task aided by the insights of the Court, fully aware of our constitutional responsibilities as well as the severity of our fiscal condition, in partnership with all affected and open to new ideas."

Senator Pat McGuire (D-Crest Hill): “The General Assembly, Governor Rauner and members of the pension plans now have the opportunity to work together to achieve pension reform that is fair, sustainable and constitutional. Let's avoid rhetoric and threats and get this job done for the good of everyone in Illinois.”

Senator Gary Forby (D - Benton): “I made a promise to the thousands of union members in my district that I would not support a pension reform plan that punishes working families. Now is the time to give labor a seat at the negotiating table so we can strike a fair balance between finding financial solvency and honoring our promises to workers.”

Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood): “The court ruling backs my support of the men and women who have earned their retirement. We now have to go back to the bargaining table and respect the Supreme Court's ruling.”

 

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