With the possibility that the Illinois Supreme Court may strike down at least part of former Democratic Governor Pat Quinn’s pension theft legislation looming, incumbent Republican Governor Bruce Rauner is already pushing for an amendment to the Illinois Constitution that, if ratified, would steal pension benefits from our state’s public employees. While a formal amendment has not been proposed yet, the amendment would, if ratified, force at least current public employees to choose between reduced pension benefits or a 401k-type plan.
Make no mistake about it, the Rauner pension theft amendment would be disastrous for Illinoisans.
First off, the amendment would effectively force our state’s public employees to make a lesser-of-two-evils decision: either take lower pension payments once they retire, or take payments from 401k-type plan once they retire. Lower pension payments would mean less money for retirees to spend on goods and services, resulting in many of them becoming impoverished and dependent on social safety net programs in order to survive. On the other hand, 401k-type plans provide no lifetime guarantee of payments, meaning that it’s possible for a beneficiary of a 401k-type plan to outlive their benefits.
If the Rauner pension theft amendment were to be ratified by voters, it would likely result in the loss of thousands of Illinois private-sector jobs. That’s because many Illinois businesses, even businesses located hundreds of miles from Springfield and/or Chicago, are dependent on retired public employees spending money on goods and services in order to survive. While our state’s pension system is badly underfunded, pension theft would leave our state even worse off than it currently is.
60% of all members of both houses of the Illinois General Assembly, which is controlled by supermajorities of Democrats, would need to approve of the Rauner pension theft amendment in order for it to appear on the Illinois ballot. If that happens, Illinois voters will be able to vote yes or no on the Rauner pension theft amendment in a ratification referendum. Either 60% of those voting on the referendum or 50%+1 of all votes in the election in which the referendum is held for the “yes” option would ratify the amendment. If the Rauner pension theft amendment appears on an Illinois ballot at any time in the future, I strongly encourage a “no” vote on the amendment.