Washington’s Supreme Court ruled today unanimously for the State in two important pension cases. And the union that represents teachers, which had led the court challenge, was quick to decry the rulings.
The cases dealt with two pension enhancements enacted by the Legislature in the mid-1990’s (“gain-sharing” and “UCOLA”). In creating both, the Legislature said they could be terminated at any time. But when the were ended due to fiscal constraints and the Great Recession, state employee unions and public employees sued, claiming a permanent right to receive these enhancements.
Trial courts in both cases agreed with the employees and those decisions were projected to cost Washington taxpayers more than $10 billion over the next 25 years. The Attorney General’s Office, on behalf of the State, appealed to the Washington Supreme Court, which today agreed with the AGO and reversed the trial courts.
Kim Mean, president of Washington Education Association, denounced today’s end of a seven-year legal fight saying, “It’s not right for the Legislature to unilaterally cut retirement benefits it promised — and to take away what educators already earned.”
Attorney General Bob Ferguson praised the work of his staff attorneys in winning today’s victories and save taxpayers billions of dollars.
“Today’s decisions preserve the rights of public employees to receive the basic pension benefits the Legislature has promised,” Ferguson said in a statement, “but make clear that the Legislature has the flexibility to add temporary benefits without being locked into providing them forever.”