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Pension War in Illinois
By Leo Welch, Legislative Officer, IL-AAUP

On May 14, 2014 Judge John W. Belz in the Circuit Court for the Seventh Judicial Circuit, Sangamon County, Illinois issued a stay for Public Act 98-0599 in its entirety. The Defendants, including the Governor of Illinois and the State University Retirement System, are enjoined from implementing or administrating any provisions of Public Act 98-0599 until further order of the Court or until Public Act 98-0599 is held unconstitutional, and a permanent injunction is entered. Among the five Plaintiffs was the We Are One Illinois Coalition, which includes the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the State University Annuitants Association (SUAA).

The following are the Court findings:

  1. Plaintiffs have shown that they have clearly ascertainable right in need of protection, including their vested rights to their pensions.
  2. Plaintiffs have shown that there is a fair question that Plaintiffs will succeed on the merits as to their challenge that Public Act 98-0599 violates the Pension Protection Clause of the Illinois Constitution.
  3. Plaintiffs have shown that they will suffer irreparable harm if an injunction does not issue, including because of confusion and uncertainty concerning the provisions of Public Act 98-0599.
  4. Plaintiffs have shown that they have no adequate remedy at law absent injunction relief.
  5. Although a balancing of harms is not required under the circumstances, the Court finds that the Plaintiffs have shown that the balance of hardships weigh in their favor.
We should consider this Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction a battle won, but not the war. When I served as President of SUAA I expected the continuous attacks on public employee pensions in other states would eventually include Illinois. I established a Legal Fund for defense of our pensions. As of November, 2014, the SUAA Legal Fund raised a total of $405,000. Your support is very much appreciated.

We will now turn our attention to a possible decision by the Illinois Supreme Court requiring significant additional legal fees to defend our pensions. SUAA will initiate a Fall fundraising campaign, and I hope you will consider a contribution. The future of your pension is still at stake.