That pre-holiday firecracker lobbed under the Statehouse dome by the Illinois Supreme Court has the potential to reverberate through the state for years to come.
By ruling that the subsidized health care benefits of retired state employees are protected by the Illinois Constitution, the court raised the unpleasant specter that there may be only one way out of the pension mess facing the state as well as local governments.
That is: come up with the money, no matter how painful.
Once the noise dies down and the shock wears off, we could even see public officials here start to seriously ask out loud whether we’re really all that much better off than the bankrupt city of Detroit.
It wasn’t just that six of seven justices sided with state retirees by preserving their right to free health insurance, it was how they did it that was sure to cause agita from the governor’s office to the 5th floor of City Hall.
At every turn and in the strongest of language, the high court seemed to go out of its way to uphold the ironclad sanctity of the 1970 Illinois Constitution’s “pension protection” clause for public employees.