“Emergency does not create power. Emergency does not increase granted power or remove or diminish the restrictions imposed upon power granted or reserved. The Constitution was adopted in a period of grave emergency. Its grants of power to the Federal Government and its limitations of the power of the States were determined in the light of emergency, and they are not altered by emergency. What power was thus granted and what limitations were thus imposed are questions which have always been, and always will be, the subject of close examination under our constitutional system” (U.S. Supreme Court, Home Building & Loan Assn. v. Blaisdell, 290 U.S. (1934)).
A state’s option to exercise its police or eminent domain powers, however, has seldom been brought to the test for obvious reasons. To declare that Illinois is in an “emergency state,” without attempting revenue restructuring, for instance, will ignite an examination of the ethical and legal motivations of policymakers and whether they attempted to exhaust every alternative available to them for resolving the state’s financial debts before attempting to ignore a constitutional contract.
“[Furthermore], budgetary relief is not a legitimate public purpose; for a severe financial crisis (Great Recession), courts [have been] split [on the issue]. Courts seem to be in consensus that the long-term fiscal health of a pension plan to assure receipt of future benefits is a legitimate public purpose… If a pension benefit is diminished without ‘offsetting consideration or benefit to plan members,’ [lowering the contribution rate one percent was not a legally negotiated consideration,] courts will typically find ‘substantial impairment’” (Pension Reform, Legal Principles and Consideration). Once offered, historically and legally, promises that were made need to be kept.
There is no financial "emergency" in Illinois. This is about power and politics, about theft and reneging on a constitutional contract with public employees. There is no justice in diminishing the benefits and rights of public employees and retirees; there is no justice in granting tax breaks for wealthy corporations and, at the same time, legislating cuts to public employees’ constitutionally-guaranteed compensation. It is legally and morally wrong to perpetuate the victimization of public employees and retirees, especially when Illinois legislators give “undeserved weight to highly-organized wealthy interest groups, [those groups] tending to ‘drain politics of its moral and intellectual content’” (Laurence H. Tribe, American Constitutional Law).
We might assume the government of Illinois would not want to prove that its contracts are worthless, especially when the “most basic purposes of the impairment [of the contract] clause [Article XIII, Section 5] as well as notions of fairness that transcend the clause itself, point to a simple constitutional principle: government must keep its word” (Tribe).