Illinois voters guarantee pension benefits
Photo: Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune

December 15, 1970

The words, embedded in the new Illinois constitution ratified in a ballot measure, didn’t attract much attention at the time, but they planted the seeds for a fiscal disaster that plagues us still today. Government workers’ pension benefits, the clause read, “shall not be diminished or impaired.” That provision has handcuffed fiscal reformers ever since, all but ensuring that anyone attempting to rein in grossly overextended pension commitments — unfunded liabilities for Chicago alone now stand at $32 billion — will have to amend the constitution first.