Illinois may not be done with the 2013 law reducing state employees’ pensions after all. Attorney General Lisa Madigan appears to be readying an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Many thought the question of whether Illinois could save money by reducing state workers’ and retirees’ pensions was resolved in May, when the state’s Supreme Court justices unanimously ruled the answer is “no.”
Illinois has until Aug. 6 to appeal to the nation’s highest court. Although Madigan hasn’t actually filed an appeal, it may well be on the horizon. On Monday, her office asked the U.S. Supreme Court for an extension of that filing deadline until early September.
John Fitzgerald, an attorney for retired public school teachers, says they’ll fight the appeal.
“This is entirely a matter of Illinois state law,” he said. “There is no basis for the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene.”
The Attorney General’s petition says the pension case “raises important questions” about states’ rights to use police powers to modify contracts, like public pensions.
“The principal questions presented are (1) whether the reserved powers doctrine prevents a State from abdicating its police powers authority to modify its own contractual obligations in extreme circumstances that imperil the general welfare and (2) if not, whether the Illinois Supreme Court identified the correct standard by which the validity of a State’s exercise of its police power is judged.”
The Attorney General’s office cites Illinois Solicitor General Carolyn Shapiro and Assistant Attorney General Clifford Berlow’s caseloads, vacations and other duties in its request for a 35-day extension.
Illinois has roughly $100 billion in long-term pension debt.