John Gregory -- Illinois Radio Network

Whether the state can legally change pension benefits for state employees will be argued before the Illinois Supreme Court today.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan believes the argument that Illinois in such dire straits financially that it must amend pension benefits will hold up before the court, though it won't erase the entire unfunded liability.

"Taxpayers are still on the hook for most of it," Madigan said, "but there is a portion of that that is directly attributable to the losses that were incurred because of the impact of the Great Recession."

Unions involved in the case have argued the pension protection clause in the state's Constitution doesn't allow the state to diminish retirement benefits.

Gov. Bruce Rauner, who criticized the law as both unconstitutional and being "a band aid on an open wound," has already proposed an alternative to move state employees to a 401(k)-style retirement system. Madigan says lawmakers have to wait for the courts to decide on the 2013 law first.

"I'm actually not against people talking about ideas," Madigan said, "but I do think, really, I don't think you're going to see any action legislatively until the Supreme Court has a say on it."

Arguments are scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m.

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