Dave Dahl -- Illinois Radio Network

Next stop: Illinois Supreme Court. A circuit judge is agreeing with a union coalition that the state’s pension restructuring law is unconstitutional. The decision was released Friday afternoon in Springfield.

The crux of the unions’ argument is that the Illinois Constitution prohibits the reduction of pension benefits which have been already promised.

Judge John Belz wrote, in granting the unions’ motion for summary judgment, “The State of Illinois made a constitutionally protected promise to its employees concerning their pension benefits. Under established and uncontroverted Illinois law, the State of Illinois cannot break this promise.”

A lawyer for the State Universities Annuitants Association, John Carr, was in the courthouse to see the ruling and react. “We made arguments that it was such a commingled package that, to strike one part and let the other part survive, it violated the law,” Carr said. “You’ve heard Gov.-elect (Bruce) say that we’re in a fiscal crisis. The state argued we’re in a fiscal crisis. Eventually, if they don’t fix the problem, the judges are going to be telling them how to fix the problem.”

In a statement, Attorney General Lisa Madigan said, “We plan to immediately appeal the decision to the Illinois Supreme Court so that we can obtain a final resolution of these important issues and allow the Governor and General Assembly to take any necessary action. We will ask the Court to expedite the appeal given the significant impact that a final decision in this case will have on the state’s fiscal condition.”

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