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Judge to Rule On Lawmaker Pay Lawsuit Next Week

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Gov. Quinn Defends Suspending Lawmaker Pay

Gov. Quinn says a lawsuit won't stop him from holding back lawmakers pay. But others say his move sets a dangerous precedent. Mary Ann Ahern reports.

Gov. Quinn Suspends Illinois Lawmakers' Pay

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said Wednesday he will suspend state lawmakers' pay after they missed the Tuesday deadline to deliver state pension reform.
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A judge will make a ruling Sept. 25 in a lawsuit over Gov. Pat Quinn's decision to suspend Illinois lawmakers' pay until they submit a state pension solution.

Arguments were heard Wednesday in court from both sides.

Lawmakers, whose base pay is $67,836 with stipends ranging from $10,000 to $27,000, have missed two paychecks since Quinn used his line-item veto to stop their checks.

Quinn warned of circumstances if they missed his deadline to produce a solution for the pension crisis and described the pay halt as a wake-up call for those who have failed for two years to take action.

"This is an emergency," Quinn said at the time. "This is a crisis. This requires the full attention of those who were elected to the General Assembly."

A bipartisan committee has since been created to work through the pension issue, but it has not yet reached a recommendation.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton filed a lawsuit against Quinn, alleging the veto power he used to suspend paychecks was unconstitutional. The lawsuit also named state Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, who issues the paychecks.

Topinka has said she can't pay lawmakers without an appropriation.

The lawsuit cites part of the constitution that says you can't change a lawmaker's salary mid-term.

"Just as the Illinois Constitution of 1970 protects the right of each judge to receive a salary and not have their salary reduced during their term of office, the Constitution also requires that each legislator receive a salary and prohibits "changes" in the salaries of legislators during their terms of office," Madigan and Cullerton said in a lawsuit, filed in Cook County Court.

Quinn has stood by his decision. Judge Neil H. Cohen will hear oral arguments in the case.

When Quinn first announced the suspension, we asked readers in a flash survey whether the governor was right to suspend lawmakers' pay. Eight-eight percent said yes, while 11 percent said no.

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