November 18, 2012

Pension Amendment Defeated

VOTERS REJECTED Constitutional Amendment #49 on the Nov. 6, ballot, which could have eliminated the State of Illinois’ Constitutional protection of the pension benefits of University and other public employees.

ALTHOUGH ABOUT 56% of Illinois voters who weighed in on the measure on their ballots cast a “yes” vote for the amendment, the law required either a yes vote from 3/5 (60%) of the people voting on it, or 50% plus one of the total number of votes cast in the election. The amendment received neither.

IF PASSED, the amendment would have required a 3/5 majority of a legislative body to increase benefits, but only a simple majority to reduce benefits that currently are protected from reduction by the State Constitution.

“ARTICLE XXX, Section 5 of our State Constitution (adopted in 1970) had as its purpose the safeguarding of the pensions of public employees,” said Ann Lousin, a faculty member at the John Marshall Law School and outspoken opponent of the amendment. She added that the change that was “proposed by this Amendment appears to be an attempt to circumvent or abolish those protections. For example, it is possible that a cost-of-living adjustment could be eliminated if this Amendment” passed.

SHE NOTED the amendment would have done “nothing for the State's pension-funding problem,” and, if approved, would have been “a catastrophe for Illinois.”

“THE OVERT and covert danger of this proposal may be over but we should expect more attacks on our pension benefits when the Illinois General Assembly reconvenes for the veto session in late November and early December, as well as in the opening days of the next regular legislative session in January,” said Merrill L. Gassman, President of UIC United, the UIC chapter of the State Universities Annuitants Association. “The legislature will be filled with a significant percentage of ‘lame ducks’ who have nothing to gain or lose by supporting ‘pension reform.’”

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