Illinois & New Jersey Hit Cuts of Public Worker Pensions

State supreme courts in two big states, Illinois and New Jersey, slammed governors’ cuts of public workers’ pensions. Illinois tossed the cuts out.


The two cases show that unions can defend their pensions – pensions which often make up for artificially lowered pay.


The definitive ruling came in the Illinois case on May 7, when the state Supreme Court voted 7-0 that a multibillion-dollar cut in public workers’ pensions there violated the state constitution.


“We are thankful the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the will of the people, overturned this unfair and unconstitutional law, and protected the hard-earned life savings of teachers, police, Fire Fighters, nurses, caregivers and other public service workers and retirees,” said Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan, speaking for the coalition.


“The court’s ruling confirms the Illinois Constitution” and its ban on public pension cuts.  The average Illinois state pension gets $32,000 yearly, he noted.


“The pension protection clause clearly states: ‘Membership in any pension or retirement system of the state shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired,’” the Illinois judges said. They noted their court has upheld it many times, adding “The clause means precisely what it says.”


In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., pushed the New Jersey pension law through the Democratic-run legislature in 2011.  But at the Supreme Court session in Trenton on May 6, he disavowed it.  That law mandated the state pay up past shortfalls into their pension fund in return for big increases in the workers’ pension contributions.


“The very proponents of this legislation now come before the court just a few years after passage and ask it to be declared unconstitutional,” Justice Barry Albin told Christie’s assistant attorney general, Jean Reilly. “This is sort of unprecedented.”  He then asked her if the state still wants its workers to contribute more to their pension fund.


The New Jersey justices gave no indication when they would rule in the case.  A lower court judge had sided with the unionists and their pension plans, and the state had appealed.


“The legislature must come to the table with a plan to raise revenue to make the full payment. We get them to do that by making phone calls non-stop to their offices. We send our message by all of us protesting in front of the statehouse on May 12th and demanding the full payment. We must let the legislature know we will not tolerate otherwise because public workers have already made increased payments for less benefits,” the AFL-CIO state blog stated.

Source: PAI