Illinois Public Pension Amendment, HJRCA 49 (2012)

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Public Pension Amendment
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Type:Constitutional amendment
Constitution:Illinois Constitution
Referred by:Illinois State Legislature

The Illinois Public Pension Amendment was on the November 6, 2012 ballot in Illinois as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment where it was defeated. The measure requires a three-fifths approval by the General Assembly, city councils, and school districts that wish to increase the pension benefits of their employees. The measure was sponsored by Representative Michael Madigan.[1]

Election results

See also: 2012 ballot measure election results

In order to be approved, the measure required approval from three-fifths of those voting on the measure, or 50 percent of the total number of votes cast in the election.[2]

Illinois HJRCA 49
Defeatedd No1,748,60144.1%
Yes 2,213,269 55.9%
These results are from the Chicago Tribune as of November 7, 2012 at 10:07a.m. CST with 92% of precincts reporting. This results section will be updated daily until the final results have been certified in about three weeks.

Text of measure

The official ballot text read as follows:[3]

Proposed Amendment to the 1970 Illinois Constitution

Explanation of Amendment

Upon approval by the voters, the proposed amendment, which takes effect on January 9, 2013, adds a new section to the General Provisions Article of the Illinois Constitution. The new section would require a three-fifths majority vote of each chamber of the General Assembly or the governing body of a unit of local government, school district, or pension or retirement system, in order to increase a benefit under any public pension or retirement system. At the general election to be held on November 6, 2012, you will be called upon to decide whether the proposed amendment should become part of the Illinois Constitution.

If you believe the Illinois Constitution should be amended to require a three-fifths majority vote in order to increase a benefit under any public pension or retirement system, you should vote YES on the question. If you believe the Illinois Constitution should not be amended to require a three-fifths majority vote in order to increase a benefit under any public pension or retirement system, you should vote NO on the question. Three-fifths of those voting on the question or a majority of those voting in the election must vote "YES" in order for the amendment to become effective on January 9, 2013.

For the proposed addition of Section 5.1 to Article XIII of the Illinois Constitution.





The following are arguments were favor of the measure, found in the official state "Explanation of the Proposed Amendment":[5]

  • "A higher vote requirement would help prevent unfunded future liability for pension benefits."
  • "Requiring a three-fifths vote would provide better accountability."
  • "A three-fifths vote requires greater consensus among parties."
  • "The proposed amendment provides more accountability in the legislative process by requiring more votes to pass a pension benefit increase. Since the cost of benefit increases comes at a later date, the price to the taxpayers is not always noticed immediately. A higher vote requirement will signify to the governing body that they are taking a serious action and will encourage greater in-depth thought before passage."
  • "A three-fifths vote requirement means the members of the governing body, regardless of political affiliation, will need to work together to reach an agreement. A greater consensus would provide for better decisions and more serious deliberation. Given the importance of pension benefit Increases and their subsequent impact on taxpayers, greater agreement would be beneficial."
  • "Currently, the public retirement system is not financially stable and is significantly underfunded. A higher vote requirement to enact pension benefit increases will help to maintain fiscal responsibility and make it more difficult to further burden the public retirement system."


The campaign to defeat the measure was led by the We Are One coalition.


  • Illinois Policy Institute
  • American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
  • Illinois AFL-CIO
  • Illinois Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association
  • We Are One


  • Opponents argued that, if enacted, the amendment in reality would do nothing to solve problems facing the state’s pension system, which, they claim, is currently more than $200 billion in debt and growing.[7][8]
  • Opponents also claimed history shows that a supermajority voting requirement would have made virtually no difference in preventing the pension benefit increases approved by the legislature during recent decades. They say that such measures have passed by overwhelming margins in both houses of the legislature, far surpassing the supermajority mark.[7]
  • Opponents also argued that the ballot measure deceives voters by making them think they are doing something to solve pension issues by supporting the amendment, while to opposing it may send the message to state and local decision makers that continued pension increases are okay with taxpayers.[7]

The following were arguments in opposition of the measure, found in the official state "Explanation of the Proposed Amendment":[5]

  • "Many government employees are represented by labor unions that bargain on their behalf for particular benefits. This constitutional amendment may make it more difficult for unions to bargain for certain increased benefits for their employees. In addition, many government employers may prefer to bargain over these benefits to give incentives to employees to do their jobs well. This constitutional amendment could remove bargaining power from both the government employer and government employee."
  • "The proposed amendment creates new definitions for the terms "benefit increase," "emolument increase," and "beneficial determination," which are not defined in other statutes or in existing case law. These definitions could generate litigation, resulting in additional costs. There may also be disagreement amongst the governing body on whether a bill, resolution or other action constitutes a "benefit increase," "emolument increase," or "beneficial determination."

Campaign contributions

The following data was obtained from the Illinois State Board of Elections:

Committee info:

Committee Amount raised Amount spent
We Are One $550,000.00  ?????[9]
Total $550,000.00 ?????

Media editorial positions

See also: Endorsements of Illinois ballot measures, 2012


  • The Gazette Chicago said, "There are good pension reform plans—the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois has one, for example. Amendment #49 is not a pension reform plan. It’s an attack on workers that almost every politician in the Illinois General Assembly is going along with.

The public does not have to join them. Vote no on Constitutional Amendment #49, and make the politicians do the hard work on true pension reform."[10]

Path to the ballot

See also: Amending the Illinois Constitution

To qualify for the 2012 ballot, the measure required a 60% vote approval by both the House and the Senate.

On Wednesday, April 18, 2012, the House passed the amendment on a vote of 113-0.[1]

On Thursday, May 3, the Senate passed the amendment on to the ballot with a 51-2 vote.[11]

See also


Suggest a link

External links

Additional reading