SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The Illinois Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of upholding a 2019 law that consolidated nearly 650 municipal police and firefighter pension funds, dismissing claims that the voting power of pension fund members was unconstitutionally diluted.
The law, signed by Gov. JB Pritzker, brought together 649 individual pension funds into just two in order to streamline management and increase investment opportunities. This move was aimed at maximizing returns and reducing administrative costs associated with managing hundreds of smaller funds.
Although the consolidation was met with legal opposition from some pensioners and individual pension funds, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected their arguments. The plaintiffs contended that the law violated the state constitution’s “pension protection clause” by altering the voting process for the funds’ oversight boards.
Chief Justice Mary Jane Theis, writing for the court, emphasized that voting in elections for local pension board members is not a constitutionally protected benefit. She further stated that the law has no impact on the plaintiffs receiving their monetary benefits as promised.
Following the ruling, Gov. JB Pritzker praised the decision, highlighting the potential benefits for Illinois taxpayers, local governments, and first responders. The decision was also commended by House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch and Illinois Municipal League CEO Brad Cole, who both expressed support for the pension fund consolidation.
The favorable ruling provides clarity and legal backing for the implementation of the 2019 law, marking a significant development in the effort to strengthen and grow the funds for retired police officers and firefighters in Illinois.