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Court Orders State to Cease Withholding Health Care Premiums from Retirees and Refund Payments

In a ruling issued today in Sangamon County Circuit Court, Judge Stephen Nardulli ordered that health care premiums which were wrongfully increased under SB 1313 (Public Act 97-695) must be restored immediately to their previous rates, and that all premiums paid to date must be refunded to IFT, AFSCME, FOP, and INA retirees. If you’re an IFT retiree, these 1 to 2 percent withdrawals will be added back to your pension checks very soon.

The State-Journal Register in Springfield noted Judge Nardulli’s decisive remarks after the hearing:

“I think the Supreme Court was pretty clear that all monies owed to retirees be returned to them,” Nardulli said.


Attorneys said there will have to be an accounting for money paid by the retirees and how much by each individual. Nardulli said he wants to make sure a system is worked out so that retirees don’t have to go the Court of Claims to recover their money.

The State has until October 13 to develop a process to apply the refunds. Watch the IFT Pension Watch blog for details as they become available.

The favorable ruling is in response to a motion filed on August 7 by the IFT and other union members, which asked the court to swiftly strike down SB 1313 based on a recent judgment by the State Supreme Court. In July, that court ruled 6-1 in Kanerva v. Weems that health insurance premium subsidies for retired state workers are protected under the Pension Protection Clause of the Illinois Constitution, which states that pension benefits “shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.”  

“This is a big step towards righting the wrongs inflicted upon so many people after they had dedicated their lives to public service in Illinois,” said IFT President Dan Montgomery. “But there are still critical battles to fight, and we won’t give up until we win them.”

Today’s judgment is separate though related to the We Are One Illinois coalition’s lawsuit against pension-slashing SB 1. That suit argues that the pension diminishments and impairments imposed by SB 1 also violate the same constitutional clause. In May, the Circuit Court stopped the implementation of SB1 until the State Supreme Court rules on its constitutionality. Last week, the Coalition and other plaintiffs jointly filed a motion urging the court to enter judgment swiftly in our favor in light of the recent Kanerva v. Weems decision, which confirmed that the Pension Protection Clause is absolute and without exception.

The IFT has been heavily involved in all of these legal matters and will continue to fight on your behalf. We continue to stand ready to speak with legislators who are willing to work together to find a legal and fair solution to our state’s challenges.

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