Illinois allocates more of its budget to pensions than any other state, but pension spending has only skyrocketed. A constitutional amendment is the only way to reform the state’s unsustainable and underfunded pension systems.

Daley College Professor Mike Crenshaw is far from retirement, but he constantly worries whether the State Universities Retirement System will be solvent for him.

“I have 20 years until I can retire, and my biggest fear is that the money’s not going to be there,” Crenshaw said.


Because pension benefits are defined in the Illinois Constitution, only a constitutional amendment approved by voters could change pension structures. Amending the constitution would open the door to changing the compounding raises to simple inflationary adjustments – protecting the systems for retirees and ending the excessive drain on taxpayers.

Author(s): Dylan Sharkey

Publication Date: 18 Jan 2022

Publication Site: Illinois Policy Institute

Op-ed: Illinois pension reform: Arizona provides a model worth another look



Which is why every politician and every voter in Illinois ought to know how Arizona managed its 2016 reform of the 48% funded Public Safety Personnel Retirement System, which had a cost-of-living adjustment calculation that everyone agreed was broken, including the unions themselves. But Arizona shares with Illinois a constitutional protection against pension changes, specifically stating that “public retirement systems shall not be diminished or impaired.”

So how did they implement this change? In a two-step process, the legislature passed reform legislation and then placed on the ballot a constitutional amendment which inserted a new clause into the state constitution: “Public retirement systems shall not be diminished or impaired, except that certain adjustments to the public safety personnel retirement system may be made as provided in Senate Bill 1428, as enacted by the fifty-second legislature, second regular session.”

This meant that the citizens of Arizona could vote on this pension change without having to worry about whether they were authorizing any unknown future changes to pensions that they might not have wanted.

Author(s): Elizabeth Bauer

Publication Date: 25 May 2021

Publication Site: Chicago Tribune

If Pritzker and Welch really want voters’ trust, they’ll do this



If Pritzker and Welch are serious about winning trust, they’ll allow Illinoisans to vote on a standalone constitutional amendment repealing the so-called “pension protection clause.” To build public support and treat retirees fairly, such an amendment could be narrowly drawn to permit only reductions in future pension increases under the COLA mechanism.

Sure, public employee unions are likely to fight any change in pensions. But it’s worth trying to win their support. It can be done; Arizona unions backed a narrow amendment to a pension protection clause in that state’s constitution. If unions won’t cooperate, Pritzker and Welch should forge ahead anyway, as Rhode Island officials—led by Democrat Gina Raimondo—did in tackling a similar pension crisis.

Only after passing such an amendment and reducing the overall pension obligation can state officials justifiably ask taxpayers for money to close the remaining gap. Would a graduated income tax be the right way to raise the necessary revenue? Maybe. I’m not opposed to it on principle. The vast majority of states with an income tax charge higher rates on higher incomes. And the necessity of a constitutional amendment would give voters the final say.

Author(s): Joe Cahill

Publication Date: 25 February 2021

Publication Site: Crain’s Chicago Business