Pension amendment falls short among Illinois voters

An amendment to the state constitution that would have made it more difficult to increase pension benefits for public employees won the majority of votes but still failed to pass.

The proposed amendment needed either a favorable vote from three-fifths of those voting on it, or 50 percent of the total votes cast in Tuesday’s election. It fell short of both criteria.

With about 90 percent of the vote reported this morning, the amendment had support from 56 percent of Illinoisans who voted on the measure. About 5 million people voted in the election.

The amendment would have required a three-fifths vote of the Legislature.

Illinois’ pension system is severely underfunded, but critics pointed out the new rule would do nothing to make up the $85 billion shortfall the state owes its five public pension systems.

The amendment also would have raised the requirement for other public bodies, including city councils and school boards, to pass anything that would increase pension costs, aside from higher wages.

Bruce Appleby, member of the State Universities Annuitants Association’s board of directors, said the amendment could have given Legislature the ability to take away pension benefits from workers if it passed.

He said this could have driven out present and future educators and hurt Illinois in the long run.

Mayor Joel Fritzler said he supported the amendment because it made it difficult for pensions to be raised and could have helped resolve problems that contribute to some of Illinois’ budget issues.

“Unfortunately, in the past the General Assembly just kept raising and raising the pensions for certain groups of workers,” he said.

Appleby said he doubted retirees who currently receive pensions would have been hurt by the amendment. Joyce Webb, who receives her deceased husband’s pension, worried she would lose the benefits she and her husband worked for.

“We had saved and invested in annuities so that there would be enough for whoever was left alone, and that has worked out very well,” she said.

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Austin Flynn can be reached at or 536-3311 ext.252.

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