Gov. Quinn Signs “Historic” Pension Bill; Unions Move Toward Lawsuit

Gov. Pat Quinn officially signed what he calls “historic legislation,” and “his number one priority,” into law today. But the pension reform bill did not receive the same elaborate production that last month’s gay marriage signing did. The governor signed this one in a no-frills private ceremony closed off to media.

“Illinois is moving forward,” Quinn said in a statement. “This is a serious solution to address the most dire fiscal challenge of our time.”

The deal is the result of negotiations between the state’s four legislative leaders: House Speaker Mike Madigan, Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, and Senate President John Cullerton.

"I applaud the governor for prioritizing this issue,” said Cullerton.

Many of the leaders lauded the bipartisan nature of the deal. Speaker Madigan made sure to give credit where credit was due.

“The bill would not have passed without me. I was convinced that standing fast for substantial savings, clear intent and an end to unaffordable annual raises would result in a sound plan that will meet all constitutional challenges," he said.

Senate Bill 1 purports to save the state $160 billion over the next 30 years and fully fund the state’s pension systems. It reforms the systems by diminishing yearly cost of living raises for higher earners, raising the retirement age, and it guarantees the state makes its full yearly payments. Pension “holidays,” or skipping yearly payments, contributed to a pension system that was thought of as the most underfunded in the nation.

Unions represented by the “We Are One” coalition have vowed to sue, claiming the bill represents an unconstitutional diminishment of benefits to state workers. They have retained the consul of law firm Freeborn and Peters and are currently deciding when and where to file, although a representative said it would be “as soon as possible.”

We will have an in-depth discussion on the constitutionality of the bill on Monday’s episode of Chicago Tonight.