CHICAGO Aug 22 A coalition of public labor
unions is seeking an expedited ruling in consolidated lawsuits
challenging the constitutionality of a new Illinois pension law.
We Are One Illinois and other parties filed a motion in
Sangamon County Circuit Court on Thursday asking for a ruling in
their favor in light of a July Illinois Supreme Court decision
that underscored state constitutional protection for public
sector retirement benefits.
The state's high court ruled on July 3 that health care for
retired state workers is a pension benefit protected by a state
constitutional provision prohibiting the diminishment or
impairment of those benefits.
The same provision is the focus of the lawsuits filed
against the pension reform law the Illinois legislature passed
in December. The law reduces and suspends cost-of-living
increases for pensions, raises retirement ages and limits the
salaries on which pensions are based.
"We believe, then, that the state's defense is without merit
and so have asked the court in this motion to rule in our favor
on the state's defense that seeks to justify" the pension reform
law, We Are One Illinois said in a statement.
The state has contended that its sovereign powers allow it
to act in a fiscal emergency. Illinois has a $100 billion
unfunded pension liability and the country's worst funded state
retirement system. Illinois's credit ratings are also the lowest
among U.S. states.
A spokeswoman for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan did
not immediately respond on Friday to a request for comment on
the union coalition's motion.
Sangamon County Judge John Belz suspended the law in May and
the next hearing in the case is set for Sept. 4. In the
meantime, the coalition said it is "ready to work with any
legislator willing to develop a fair and legal solution to our
(Reporting by Karen Pierog; Editing by Leslie Adler)