Judge Denies Quinn Bid To Keep Lawmaker Pay Freeze | NBC Chicago
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Judge Denies Quinn Bid To Keep Lawmaker Pay Freeze



    Gov. Pat Quinn's quest to freeze Illinois lawmakers' pay in the face of a state pension crisis took its second blow in two days.

    Judge Neil Cohen on Friday denied the governor's request to stop paychecks from being issued when he appeals the judge's earlier ruling.

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    Cohen Cohen ruled Thursday that the state Constitution makes it clear lawmakers' pay can't be changed midterm, and ordered Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka to pay the lawmakers immediately.

    Quinn's legal team was back in court at 10:30 a.m. Friday for a hearing on the issue.

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    The governor used his line-item veto this summer to stop lawmakers' checks until they submit a solution to the state pension crisis. He warned of circumstances if they missed his deadline and described the pay halt as a wake-up call for those who have failed for two years to take action.

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

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    Quinn on Thursday said he "respectfully disagrees" with the judge's decision and plans to appeal it, seeking a court stay to prevent legislative paychecks from being issued until the case is considered by a higher court. “Nobody in Springfield should get paid until the pension reform job gets done,” Quinn said, noting he will not accept a paycheck until a pension reform bill is on his desk.

    Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton filed the lawsuit against Quinn, alleging the veto power he used to suspend paychecks was unconstitutional.

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    Cullerton said in a statement after the ruling that pension reform continues to be the top priority.

    "Now that the governor’s actions have been answered by a court, I trust that we can put aside all distractions and focus on the goal of pension reform," he said.

    Topinka said she has instructed her staff to begin processing the paychecks.

    "I have consistently said action was required by the General Assembly or the Court to authorize restoration of those payments," she said. "That has now occurred, and the Comptroller's Office will comply. Processing of paychecks for August, September and October begins today."

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

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.