Arguments in a lawsuit over Gov. Pat Quinn's decision to cut legislators' pay will have a hearing in mid-September, meaning lawmakers could miss another paycheck if they don't agree on a solution for Illinois' pension crisis.
Cook County Circuit Judge Neil H. Cohen said Tuesday oral arguments will be presented Sept. 18 for the lawsuit filed by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton.
Quinn used his line-item veto last month to suspend lawmakers' pay after he said they missed his deadline to produce a solution for the state's pension dilemma.
"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."
Madigan and 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.
The lawsuit claims the governor isn't allowed, citing 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," the pair said in a lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Cook County Court.
Base pay for lawmakers is $67,836, though many earn more through stipends from serving in leadership posts or on committees.
Quinn's office stands by his decision. Topinka, the lone Republican in the situation, is staying out of the legal debate and has simply said she can't write the paychecks without an appropriation, which the governor removed, or a court order.
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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.