July 4, 2014
By Neal Tepel
The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that health care benefits for retired state and university employees are protected by the pension clause of the state constitution and cannot be diminished or impaired. In addition the Illinois Supreme Court noted that a lower court was incorrect in dismissing the four consolidated lawsuits supported by several labor organizations arguing that SB 1313 was unconstitutional.
That legislation had effectively allowed the state to diminish health care benefits for retirees by imposing new and higher health insurance premiums.
AFSCME Council 31 in an official comment stated that the Illinois Supreme Court has agreed with AFSCME that affordable health care in retirement, a promise made to tens of thousands of Illinois public servants in exchange for their service, is protected by the constitution.
“The Supreme Court ruled today that men and women who work to provide essential public services — protecting children from abuse, keeping criminals locked up, caring for the most vulnerable and more — can count on the Illinois Constitution to mean what it says,” AFSCME Council 31 executive director Henry Bayer said. “Retirement security, including affordable health care and a modest pension, cannot be revoked by politicians.
“Unions representing public employees and retirees have stood virtually alone against political and corporate-funded attacks on retirement security,” Bayer added. “Time and again we have urged legislators to respect the constitution they are sworn to uphold, and to work together with us to develop fair and constitutional solutions to the state’s very real fiscal challenges. We remain ready to work in good faith with anyone to do so.”
The Supreme Court sent the case back to the circuit court for further proceedings.