Illinois' Pension Overhaul Faces Legal Threat Before Being Signed

December 4, 2013

Illinois lawmakers narrowly approved a historic, sweeping overhaul of government worker pension systems Tuesday, overcoming years of political and philosophical differences in an attempt to address one of the state's most pressing financial problems.

The collective exhale from the state's political leaders may be short-lived, however. Even before Gov. Pat Quinn carries through with his promise to sign the bill, unions are prepping a lawsuit to try to overturn it. They contend the benefit cuts are unconstitutional and unfair to employees and retirees.

Supporters hailed the bill as a solution that would "ensure retirement security" for current and retired state workers, public school teachers outside Chicago, university employees and state public officials. They also said it would end the squeeze on state tax dollars that increased pension costs have placed on education and social services.

But Republican opponents who argued that the measure doesn't do enough to decrease the state's costs contended it will lead to the continuation of a 2011 state income tax increase that was billed as temporary.

The Democratic governor, who is seeking re-election next year, would not discuss whether an extension of the tax hike will be required. He did, however, take a victory lap, relishing a breakthrough after years of stalemate on the controversial but pressing issue.

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