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posted: 3/8/2014 5:01 AM

Illinois, take a hint from Arizona

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Attention Illinois Supreme Court Justices: a unanimous Arizona Supreme Court says the Arizona legislature can't cut cost-of-living increases promised to state retirees. It seems the Arizona Constitution has a clause that bars "diminishing or impairing" public pensions.

Does that sound familiar? Of course it does. We have the same wording in our very own state constitution. Article XIII, Section 5, of the Illinois Constitution states "shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired."

House Speaker Madigan's rambling preamble to his Senate Bill 1 and now his Public Act 98-0599 basically says the state is justified in violating the Constitution because of atypically large debts and structural budgetary imbalances that will, unless addressed by the General Assembly, lead to even greater and rapidly growing debts and deficits.

But guess what? The Illinois Supreme Court in Jorgensen v. Blagojevich, 211 Ill. 2d 286, 316 (2004) stated: "No principle of law permits us to suspend constitutional requirements for economic reasons, no matter how compelling those reasons may seem."

If the governor and legislature want to change public pensions they can do it the same way they protected it: by changing the state constitution using the available legal means. Our Founding Fathers believed in the principles of checks and balances to prevent the abuse of power in our democratic government. I hope the Illinois Supreme Court believes in it too. Congratulations to all Arizona retired pension recipients, you live in a state that does.

Richard Niemaszyk


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