- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 21, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Lawyers contesting the Illinois law that overhauls a state pension program that is $111 billion in debt are asking the state Supreme Court for an extra month to file arguments.

Attorneys for state employees, retired teachers and others who contest the constitutionality of the law say they need until March 16, WUIS-FM radio in Springfield reported (http://bit.ly/1Es3rCo ).

The high court agreed in December to fast-track the state’s appeal of a lower-court ruling in November that the measure is unconstitutional.

The plaintiffs are challenging a law adopted in late 2013 that reduces pension benefits and raises the retirement age for workers 45 and younger to reduce a monstrous fiscal hole in the state’s pension accounts.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan argued earlier this month that in a crisis, state officials may use extraordinary powers not granted by the Constitution to fix a problem. Her position was accompanied by 10 friend-of-the-court briefs from the city of Chicago, social service agencies, public policy groups and Chicago employees such as police and schoolteachers.

John Fitzgerald, a lawyer for retired teachers, says there are new arguments that need evaluation.

“There are some new arguments and these briefs are somewhat voluminous, and so of course we need a reasonable amount of time to evaluate these briefs,” he said. “Although we believe that the arguments raised … need to be evaluated and responded to, we do not believe that any of those arguments have any merit.”

A Sangamon County judge found in November that the measure violates the Illinois Constitution’s prohibition on impairing or reducing pension perks.

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Information from: WUIS-FM.

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