Consequences of amending Constitution

Editor:

On Nov. 6, the citizens of Illinois will be asked to vote on a proposal to amend the state constitution. The changes wrought by Constitutional Amendment 49 would affect every local government, every school district, every state university and every community college. (The cost to taxpayers for putting this issue on the ballot is at least $70 million.) If approved, it would have a profound and long-lasting effect.

The amendment will impose a mandate on every governmental unit in Illinois. It will require that every increase in a pension benefit must pass the governing body by a three-fifths vote. This would be a departure from other governmental decisions, which are normally made by majority vote. In effect, this would allow a minority to control decisions affecting pension benefits.

What are some possible consequences? We can anticipate many governmental meetings where absenteeism by elected officials could become a tactic to avoid decision-making. Would local elections become more divisive and more partisan? Could this result in governmental decisions being made by judges?

What about state universities, including the University of Illinois? The amendment will give pension-benefit authority to the “governing body.” What is the governing body of a state university? Is it the Board of Trustees or the General Assembly?

If this amendment is approved, what effect would it have on the ability of state universities to attract and retain high quality personnel? We believe the effect would be adverse.

We have some very serious public pension issues in Illinois. It would be more meaningful if this amendment dealt with them in a direct and rational way but it IS clear that it will create new issues which will likely produce costly and extended litigation.

We believe that after you have read the proposed Constitutional Amendment 49, together with our comments, you will come to the conclusion that it should be rejected at the polls on Nov. 6. The basic reason is that it will create many new pension problems without dealing with any of the current ones. A future amendment would be needed to correct the problems created by this current one and would cost taxpayers another $70+ million.

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