"This law is going no place until there is a final resolution on
the merits (of the lawsuits)," said Don Craven, an attorney who
filed a lawsuit against the law on behalf of the Illinois State
Employees Association Retirees.
The law was to have taken effect on June 1. It would reduce
retirees' benefits and raise the retirement age to save the state
nearly $145 billion over 30 years.
One of the main groups opposing the law is known as the We Are One
Illinois labor coalition. The lawsuits claim the reforms violate the
Illinois Constitution, which protects public worker pensions from
being diminished or impaired.
The coalition applauded Judge John Belz's ruling in Sangamon County
"This is an important first step in our efforts to overturn this
unfair, unconstitutional law and to protect retirement security for
working and retired Illinois families," said a statement from
Michael Carrigan, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO, on behalf of
Maura Possley, a spokeswoman for Illinois Attorney General Lisa
Madigan, who is defending the law, said the ruling was under review.
"The goal of the pension reform law is to stabilize the pension
systems. Unfortunately, this decision will likely further burden the
systems and hurt taxpayers," Possley said.
The law, enacted in December, reduces and suspends cost-of-living
increases for pensions, raises retirement ages and limits the
salaries on which pensions are based.
[to top of second column]
Illinois has had the worst-funded pension system among all U.S.
states after decades of skipping or skimping on pension payments. As
a result, credit rating agencies have slapped Illinois with the
lowest ratings among states.
Abdon Pallasch, Illinois' assistant
budget director, said the judge's ruling was not unexpected and will
not impact the budgets for the current and next fiscal year, which
begins July 1.
The law offers workers and retirees some incentives, including a
reduction in contributions toward pensions and a method for ensuring
the state fully makes its contributions.
(Reporting by Karen Pierog; Editing by James Dalgleish and Lisa
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.