Poll: Most Illinoisans support constitutional pension reform

Poll: Most Illinoisans support constitutional pension reform

Fifty-six percent of Illinoisans support amending the Illinois Constitution to reform the state’s public pension systems. Illinois has the nation’s least-funded pension plans.

The majority of Illinoisans polled support amending the Illinois Constitution to reform government pensions, according to a survey conducted for the Illinois Policy Institute by Echelon Insights.

The poll asked which statement voters agreed with more, even if one wasn’t exactly right.

Results showed 56% supported the statement: “Amend the state constitution to preserve retirement benefits already earned by public employees and retirees, but also allow a reduction in the benefits earned in the future by employees and allow for slower growth in retirees' future benefits.”

Only 18% of voters chose: “Raise taxes or reduce state spending on higher education, public safety, and social services to fully fund the state’s

pension obligations to government workers.”

Unsure respondents accounted for 26% of the poll, which surveyed 800 Illinois voters March 27-29.

Illinois’ pension spending has grown significantly since 2000, outpacing other categories. Since then, pension spending is up 584%, while total spending grew by 21% and many vital services to the state’s most vulnerable were cut by 20%.

Illinois lawmakers from both sides of the aisle in 2013 tried to fix the state’s pension system by reducing cost-of-living raises for pensioners who served shorter careers but earned the highest salaries.

The law was struck down by the Illinois Supreme Court in 2015 for violating the state’s pension clause, which states benefits can’t “be diminished or impaired.”

A “hold harmless” pension reform plan, such as one developed by the Illinois Policy Institute and based loosely on the bipartisan 2013 reforms, could help eliminate the state’s unfunded pension liability and achieve retirement security for pensioners. The 2013 reforms were rejected by the Illinois Supreme Court, which is why reform requires a change to the Illinois Constitution.

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