The general condition of the pensions operating under the laws of Illinois may be correctly described as one of insolvency. That is to say, viewed from the standpoint of sound finance and of having the necessary reserves to carry out the payment laws, there are immense deficiencies in the existing funds.”
Why does the state’s Constitution include such strict, locked-in language for pensions? At the 1970 Constitutional Convention, delegates were aware of a persistent problem in Illinois. Pension funds were suffering, and police and fire unions led a fight to protect their benefits. In the 1930s, when New York state was faced with the same problem, it established a new clause that made sure New York was stuck with the benefits it had promised. Under the threat, the state got its act together and shored up pension payments.
Illinois delegates took the language from New York with the hope that if it worked there it could work anywhere.