Rauner on Illinois Pensions: ‘Don't Change History'

The incoming governor softens his views after an important court decision.

Gov.-Elect Bruce Rauner changed his tune to defend retired state employee's pensions on Monday, remarking that it's most important to "protect what is done—don't change history. Don't modify or reduce anybody's pension who has retired, or has paid into a system and they've accrued benefits. Those don't need to change."

Rauner's public comments came several days after a Springfield judge declared unconstitutional the 2013 pension reform bill passed by predecessor Pat Quinn, who remains in the governor's office through mid-January. The measure—which now goes to the Illinois Supreme Court—would freeze cost-of-living increases and hike the retirement age in an effort to get the state out of debt within 30 years. Illinois is about $111 billion behind in promised payments to five underfunded pensions following decades of financial imprudence.

The Republican investor said on the campaign trail earlier this year that he'd slash benefits to retirees and current workers and lead a transition into a corporate-esque 401(k) arrangement. But as he prepares to take over the governorship, and see his ambitious election-season statements clash with political realities, Rauner has apparently softened his views on pension reform to pardon those who've invested income—placing money (and trust) in a dysfunctional system.

"What we should change is the future—the future accruals, the future benefits for future work," he said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. "That is constitutional. It's also fair and appropriate for the taxpayers and the workers themselves."

"Hopefully (the state Supreme Court) will give us some feedback that will help guide the discussion for future modifications as appropriate for the pensions," noted Rauner.

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