Constitutional Change Proposed In Illinois Pension Debate

Feb 8, 2013

A lack of a pension overhaul in Springfield has prompted one lawmaker to propose changes to Illinois' constitution. The bill aims to strip a key provision that has been at center of negotiations.

State Representative Joe Sosnowski
Credit Illinois General Assembly

Efforts to send the governor a pension bill often run into this argument from unions and many Democratic lawmakers: changing retirement benefits for state workers would be unconstitutional. GOP members have said the General Assembly should go ahead and make changes and let the courts decide.

But Republican State Representative Joe Sosnowski of Belvidere says the state should ask voters to approve a referendum that would strike a paragraph in the Constitution that prohibits the reduction of public employee pension benefits.

"The goal obviously is not to hurt anybody's retirement ability, but to make sure we have a plan that's put together that's actually gonna be there for people when they retire" Sosnowski said.

Sosnowski says the earliest his proposal could make it on a ballot would probably be in 2014. He says he hopes the General Assembly and the governor's office can reach a compromise before then. But he says it would be nice to have another option in place if talks drag on.

Last fall, Illinois voters rejected a referendum that would have made it more difficult for a governmental body to increase pension benefits.