Local firefighter and police pensions subject of Illinois pension committee

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(The Center Square) – As the Illinois Supreme Court determines the constitutionality of consolidating public safety pension funds across the state, officials from firefighter and police pensions provided updates on how they have been performing.

In 2019, Gov. J.B. Pritzker enacted a measure consolidating about 650 first responder pension funds into a fund for police and a separate one for firefighters. A challenge to the consolidation has been in state court ever since to determine the constitutionality of combining the funds.

Richard White, with the Illinois Police Officers Pension Investment Fund, provided an update on where the measure is within the state court system.

“The case, as you are aware, is in the Supreme Court at this time. It has been briefed by the plaintiffs and has been briefed by the defendants,” White said. “We are a defendant, and the Attorney General is the main representative.”

The pensions now require payment from other entities into the systems. State Rep. Steven Reick, R-Woodstock, asked if there have been any issues.

“How was this developed as far as cooperation is concerned now that you are a couple of years into this?” Reick asked.

White said the last several years have been successful.

“We are in a much better state today than where we were three or four years ago when this statute started,” White said. “I am very encouraged about where we are. I really appreciate the cooperation and participation of the Article Three funds.”

The Illinois Firefighters’ Pension Investment Fund has about $8 billion in assets. The consolidated police pension fund has about $9 billion.

Andrew Bodewes, who represents the Fraternal Order of Police, said changes need to be made to address the number of officers who have left the force and if they wish to make payments in full and on time.

“My anticipation is we have few, if any, employers who will tell you yes, we have all the folks we need,” Bodewes said. “Some of this is demographics as many of our officers are older.”

The Kane County trial court dismissed the case, which was then appealed to the Appellate Court of Illinois’ Second District, which upheld the lower court’s ruling.

“The Act does nothing more than require one type of government-created pension fund to transfer assets to another type of government-created pension fund,” the appeals court said. “Plaintiffs’ rights to receive benefit payments are not impacted by these transfers.”

The Supreme Court could hear the case in the coming months.

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