This Article reviews not only the Pension Clause’s language and origins, but also the constitutional convention debates discussing it, and relevant court decisions construing the provision. The Article also evaluates the arguments made by legal commentators on behalf of particular stakeholders about whether the Clause allows the legislature to cut the pension benefits of current public employees and retirees as well as other related issues. The Article concludes that the General Assembly cannot unilaterally cut the pension benefits of current employees or retirees as a means to reduce the State’s existing pension liabilities based on the Clause’s plain language, the drafters’ original intent, voters’ understanding of the provision, and court decisions construing the Clause. Simply put, there is no police or reserved powers exception to the Clause’s protection.
Eric Madiar, Is Welching on Public Pension Promises an Option for Illinois? An Analysis of Article XIII, Section 5 of Illinois Constitution, 48 J. Marshall L. Rev. 167 (2014)