Judge Puts Hold On Pension Reform Law

May 15, 2014

Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge John Belz has issued a temporary restraining order that prevents Illinois' pension reform law from being implemented until questions about the law's constitutionality and a suit challenging it can be resolved.  The law was scheduled to take effect June 1. 

Credit flickr user / Brian Turner (CC BY 2.0)

Five lawsuits by groups representing state workers and retirees challenging the law have been consolidated in Sangamon County court.   

It's a temporary victory for government employees who say the law is unconstitutional.

Unions and other critics say the benefit cuts are illegal, because Illinois' constitution guarantees that once earned, pension benefits cannot be impaired. That legal challenge continues, so for now, a judge granted a request to delay the law.

Illinois' attorney general agreed to suspend portions of it. But as he issued his decision, Sangamon County Judge John Belz said there's "almost across the board" confusion about the law, including among retired employees who are already drawing pensions. Belz said they need to know what standard of living they should expect.

Attorney John Myers, who represents retired state workers, applauded the ruling.

"My folks, who would start losing benefits January 1, now will not lose those benefits. That's important to a lot of them," he said. "A lot of those folks, that's their sole source of income," Myers said.

Myers says he sees it as a hopeful sign that eventually the entire law will be thrown out.

But there's a long way to go - ultimately the case is expected to go before the Illinois Supreme Court.