Baffling high court ruling on benefits
How could six of seven Illinois Supreme Court justices rule that state retiree health benefits are protected when the constitution is silent on such a benefit? The unprecedented ruling was founded on the premise that it was not the intent of constitution drafters to protect "only" core pension benefits. Since when was the job of the court broadened to include mind reading and speculation?
Springfield's cancer of ineptitude has spread from the state's administrative and legislative branches to include the judicial branch. Illinoisans will pay dearly for the governess they elected.
How much? Next to pension benefits, health benefits are the state's largest liability at $56 billion and an annual cost of $1.4 billion. Combined with $7.5 billion in pension payments, annual payments for retirees would be $8.9 billion. In other words, one of every four current tax dollars pays for state worker retirement benefits.
The court has yet to rule on pension benefits. Judging by the court's ruling on health benefits, all prospective state retiree benefits may be ruled sacred. If so ruled, with future annual health benefits for retirees projected to grow to $6.6 billion, our system of government in Illinois will become insolvent.
The state may be forced to raise taxes and cut basic government services including education, transportation, public safety and social services leading to an exodus of individual and corporate taxpayers. Meanwhile many retired state workers will likely be living in some warm climate basking in the comfort of a generous pension and a Cadillac health plan.
Let's hope the supreme court's ruling on pension benefits recognizes, like courts in other states, that labor contracts can be impaired due to the severity of enforcement. To rule otherwise will throw this state into financial chaos.