Illinois educators file class action lawsuit to invalidate pension reform law

By Nicel Jane Avellana

Dec 27, 2013 08:57 PM EST

A class action lawsuit was filed by a group of teachers and public school officials in Illinois on Friday, December 27, asking a state court to render invalid a new pension reform law of the state on grounds that slashing pension benefits are a violation of the constitution, Reuters reported.

The case, lodged in the Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago, alleged that the amendments to pensions of current and retired teachers that were passed by the Illinois General Assembly and inked to law by Governor Pat Quinn earlier this December were a violation of the protections given to public sector worker retirement benefits under the Illinois Constitution.

The controversial law cuts and suspends the cost-of-living increases for pensions, increases the retirement ages and puts limitations on the salaries where the pensions are based as the state's finances shoulder an unfunded pension liability amounting to $100 billion, the report said.

Governor Pat Quinn, Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka and the Board of Trustees of the Illinois Teachers' Retirement System were named as the defendants of the lawsuit. Filed as a class action, the lawsuit represented both the retired and active members of the state's Teachers' Retirement System who are not a part of any teachers' labor union. While a coalition of public labor unions have pledged to fight the law, the report said the case is the first one filed so far.

The report said the reforms of the new pensions law are set to be effective in June next year. It is expected to generate savings of $160 billion over 30 years for the state even as it reduces its unfunded pension liability right away by 20%. However, the law also offers a sweet deal for workers and retirees. These sweeteners include reduced pension contributions and a way to ensure that the State of Illinois will fully give its contributions, the report said.

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