WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Pension Ruling Could Impact Illinois

Feb 21, 2014

A decision Thursday by the Arizona Supreme Court is getting careful attention in Illinois.

It could influence how the Illinois Supreme Court rules on pensions for government employees.

The Arizona court unanimously struck down a law that sought to reduce pension benefits for public officials.

It's relevant to Illinois because of a similar attempt to scale back benefits here. Both states have nearly identical clauses in their constitutions, saying pensions "shall not be diminished or impaired."

“I find the Arizona reasoning very interesting,” said Ann Lousin, who’s an authority on the Illinois Constitution. She's a law professor who was present when it was written because she was on the research staff of the 1970 Constitutional Convention.

Lousin says while Illinois courts are not bound by the Arizona case, the Illinois Supreme Court will likely consider the reasoning behind the Arizona court's decision.

“I think this really should make everybody sit up and take notice,” she said. 

Illinois' pension law isn't scheduled to take effect until summer, though it's unlikely the legal challenge will be resolved by that time.