Rep. Bradley reacts to ruling
Rep. John Bradley (D.-Marion) issued the following statement on the Supreme Court’s decision ruling the Pension Reform Act unconstitutional:
"In 2013, I made a tough decision to support the reform because I wanted to fix a decades-old problem and ensure that retirees would continue to have their pensions in the future," Bradley said. "Following today’s ruling, I remain committed to working in a bipartisan way with my colleagues to help solve the issue of pension debt and make the system solvent, while protecting people’s hard-earned retirement. The State of Illinois has nearly $400 billion dollars in pension payments to make over the next 30 years. To ignore this issue only puts the pensions of retirees, and the entire system at risk of collapsing."
Illinois" main pension systems are underfunded by $111 billion, and the state is having to set aside about $7 billion annually to keep the situation from growing worse.
In fact, Illinois is now paying more than 22 cents of each tax dollar to pension debt and that number is headed toward 30 cents. And that"s money that"s not going to education, infrastructure, public safety and other needs.
And complicating the picture is a projected $6 billion shortfall for the coming fiscal year.
The 2013 act would have reduced annual increases in retiree benefits, raised the retirement age for younger government workers and capped salary amounts for pension purposes.
One of the act"s drafters, Rep. Elaine Nekritz, said she was disappointed by the court"s ruling.
"Frankly my most overwhelming emotion is that I"m feeling sad because we are now going to be dealing with this problem in the state of Illinois for the next 40 to 50 years," Nekritz said.
A spokesman for Gov. Bruce Rauner released a statement saying, the "decision confirms that benefits earned cannot be reduced. That"s fair and right, and why the governor long maintained that SB 1 is unconstitutional."
Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, had expressed doubts about the constitutionality of the 2013 act.
"That victory, however, should be balanced against the grave financial realities we will continue to face without true reforms. If there are to be any lasting savings in pension reform, we must face this reality within the confines of the pension clause."
House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said he respected the ruling but disagreed with it, and he is ready to work toward a solution.
"I don"t believe existing one nor the former one former one meet any of those three criteria," he said.
"Illinois needs leadership and fiscally prudent decisions, and those decisions have not been made," he said. "There seem to be these myths that we can just raise taxes or we"ll get this money from the rich, and I just find those to be terribly unrealistic," he said.
Organized labor hailed the ruling and said it was thankful the court had "overturned this unfair and unconstitutional law and protected the hard-earned life savings of teachers, police, firefighters, nurses, caregivers and other public service workers and retirees," according to a statement from Michael T. Carrigan, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO.