The Illinois Supreme Court has unanimously upheld a 2019 law that consolidated nearly 650 municipal police and firefighter pension funds. The law, signed by Gov. JB Pritzker, merged 649 individual pension funds into two, streamlining management and reducing administrative costs.
While nearly three dozen pensioners and 17 individual pension funds sued over the law, claiming their voting power was unconstitutionally diluted, the court rejected their arguments.
The consolidation aimed to provide access to larger investments, previously unavailable to numerous small individual funds, with the goal of yielding greater returns. By combining the funds into two, administrative costs paid out of individual pension funds were eliminated.
The lawsuit contended that members’ voting power was diluted as they now vote for oversight boards on a statewide basis, instead of selecting peers for local boards as before.
However, Chief Justice Mary Jane Theis, writing for the court, asserted that the ability to vote in elections for local pension board members is not constitutionally protected, nor is the ability to have local board members control and invest pension funds.
Governor Pritzker praised the decision, attributing it to the victory of Illinois taxpayers, local governments, and first responders.
House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch also applauded the ruling, considering the 2019 law as commonsense reform. Illinois Municipal League CEO Brad Cole expressed gratitude for the consistent rulings in favor of the Act, allowing everyone to focus on strengthening and growing the funds.