Each local pension system is unique and there is no “one-size fits all” approach to pension reform. A number of aspects of today’s decision re-affirm our view that the legislation introduced last year to reform the pension fund for Cook County employees and retirees is constitutionally sound. First and foremost, our proposed reform legislation is not based on the “police powers” argument or the other arguments put forth in defense of Senate Bill 1. Our plan, which was the product of over two years of negotiations with a cross section of unions and stakeholders, also confers on participants significant new value in return for changes in the pension system. For example, current employees and retirees will receive dedicated healthcare funding and a secure healthcare program, both of which they don’t have today under current law.
The fact is that the current statute that governs the pensions of Cook County employees and retirees is broken, through no fault of the County or its taxpayers. The County has always budgeted the maximum statutory payment and yet the fund remains in a precarious financial state. For each month that passes, the unfunded liabilities grow by roughly $30 million and the window of time to enact the mutually agreed upon options to fix the status quo narrows. It is critical that our pension reform legislation be passed immediately.
We will continue working with the General Assembly and Governor Rauner on advancing our equitable legislation through bipartisanship.