The Union Backed
Is it Constitutional?
I am SO GLAD that retirees are refusing
to allow actives to negotiate on their behalf. Pension reform cannot
happen on the backs of retirees. The Union sponsored proposal is
Retired teachers say union plan is unconstitutional, too
By Doug Finke (email@example.com)
The State Journal-Register
Posted May 07, 2013 @ 06:13 PM
Last update May 07, 2013 @ 06:33 PM
An organization of retired teachers said Tuesday it believes a
union-backed pension proposal is unconstitutional and vowed to fight it.
The statement from the Illinois Retired Teachers Association came as
House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, and his top pension expert
raised concerns about whether the plan being advanced by Senate
President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, will save a sufficient amount of
Cullerton has cited constitutionality as the major reason to support
the union-backed plan, which will be amended to Senate Bill 2404 today
and heard in the Senate Executive Committee.
The plan, negotiated between Cullerton and public employee unions,
calls for changes to pension benefits for both active and retired
employees. The plan applies to state workers, university employees,
lawmakers and teachers outside of the city of Chicago.
Retirees would have to choose between two options. Under Choice A,
retirees could continue to receive a 3 percent compounded cost of
living adjustment, although the COLA would be subject to a staggered,
two-year freeze. They would continue to receive state-subsidized health
Under Choice B, retirees would continue to receive the 3 percent
compounded COLA without interruption, but would give up health
IRTA executive director Jim Bachman called the changes “clearly
“The legislation may be less draconian than the bill sent over last
week by the House of Representatives, but it still fails the test of
constitutionality,” Bachman said in Tuesday’s statement. “If our
organization sits back without a fight and allows changes to the spirit
of our state’s laws governing enforceable contracts, then no agreement
will ever again be safe from arbitrary dissolution under the law.”
Bachman noted the IRTA created a legal defense fund last year to be
used to challenge pension legislation it believed to be
The IRTA represents about 35,000 people. The state Teachers Retirement
System said it has about 95,000 retired members.
Cullerton said the union-backed bill is a better alternative to a
reform plan passed by the House last week because public employee labor
unions vowed not to sue if their compromise is enacted. The unions have
threatened to try and block the House plan in court if it becomes law.
The Illinois Education Association negotiated with Cullerton on the
compromise plan. IEA spokesman Charles McBarron said the union believes
the plan is constitutional because it gives workers a choice. He also
said it was reasonable to include both active and retired workers in
“A bill that only affects one segment we think would be less fair than
one that impacts more people associated with the pension system,” he
said. “We believe there will be benefits for active and retired
employees because this legislation will stabilize the systems.”
Even before the Senate votes on SB2404, some are raising questions
about whether it will save enough money. The bill passed by the House
cuts $30 billion off of the state’s nearly $100 billion pension debt.
The Senate proposal cuts it by about $10 billion.
The House bill saves about $140 billion in pension payments over the
next 30 years while the Senate bill savesan estimated $46 billion.
Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said the speaker is still reviewing the
“All we’ve seen is a fact sheet. There’s really no way to determine how
much savings, if any, there are,” Brown said, adding that even on the
surface, “there’s a huge difference” in savings between the House and
“Common sense would tell you a member who voted for one proposal is not
inclined, probably, to vote for something that does less,” Brown said.
Cullerton, though, has argued the House plan won’t save any money if
the courts declare it unconstitutional.
Rep. Elaine Nekritz of Northbrook, the House Democrats’ point person on
pensions, said she’s concerned that the Senate plan keeps the same
pension payment schedule that now exists and is putting pressure on
lawmakers to cut other parts of the state budget. She also said she’d
like to see numbers from the state pension systems to verify the
savings claimed in the Cullerton bill.
Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, who earlier voted for a plan similar to
the House proposal, said he, too, wants assurances the Cullerton plan
will save enough money to help the state’s pension problems. Sen. Sam
McCann, R-Carlinville, who voted against the bill Brady supported, said
he’s inclined to support Cullerton’s plan.
“Right now, I plan to vote `yes’ on this bill,” McCann said. “I believe
the pension fix has to be negotiated. The only caveat to that is if I
start hearing from a lot of current retirees (who think it is unfair).”
Doug Finke can be reached at 217-788-1527.
Back to the Pending Bills page
Back to the RTAC Home page
Go to the The State Journal-Register