Could Illinois Supreme Court Force Lawmakers To Fully Fund Pensions?
The Illinois Supreme Court's ruling on the state's pension reform law seems to make one thing clear: Illinois needs massive reforms to avoid simply becoming a pension provider that does government services on the side. Already nearly 25 percent of every tax dollar in Springfield goes to fund pernsions.
...with today’s ruling, Illinois’ high court says that state government’s No. 1 financial responsibility is paying for the retirements of people who no longer work for state government. Pension costs are first in line, ahead of funding for public safety, education, helping the poor and disadvantaged, and all core services provided by state government.
Following up on the matter with State Rep. Ron Sandack, I asked him if the Supreme Court somehow could compel lawmakers to pay for pensions using general fund tax dollars. Meaning, could the Court take money meant for schools, public safety, etc. and force the state to use it for pension checks, consequences be damned. Initially, Sandack said that would not be a possibility:
However, on Monday a footnote from the opinion was highlighted at Capitol Fax. In it, the justices appear to argue they reserve the power to do what Sandack said could not be done:
Consistent with an earlier opinion by this court in McNamee v. State, 173 Ill. 2d 433 (1996), and comments at the Constitutional Convention, we did not, however, foreclose the possibility that a direct action could be brought by pension system members to compel funding if a pension fund were on the verge of default or imminent bankruptcy. Sklodowski, 182 Ill. 2d at 232-33.
So I asked again:
So, to answer the question posed at the top of this post, yes, it appears the Illinois Supreme Court argues it CAN force lawmakers to use general fund dollars to pay for pensions.
We'll continue to ask lawmakers to weight in on this possibility.