Gov. Pat Quinn: If legislators want paychecks, override veto
By SARA BURNETT Associated Press August 31, 2013 7:00PM
Updated: August 31, 2013 7:39PM
Lawyers for Gov. Pat Quinn say a judge should throw out a lawsuit over Quinn’s move to halt the payment of legislators’ salaries, arguing that if lawmakers want their paychecks, they can override his veto.
In a motion filed Friday in Cook County Circuit Court, Quinn’s lawyers acknowledged that an override could be unpopular with voters but said that as long as that option exists, the lawsuit filed by House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) and Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) seeking to restore legislators’ pay is premature.
“When a veto rankles the General Assembly, the usual and constitutionally sanctioned response is to seek to override it,” the attorneys wrote. “They have declined to exercise that power.”
Quinn’s lawyers also argue that he has the authority to veto money for lawmaker salaries.
The governor used his line-item veto in July to cut $13.8 million for legislators’ salaries from the state budget, blaiming lawmakers for not acting to resolve Illinois’ nearly $100 billion pension crisis. Madigan and Cullerton then sued, saying the governor’s action was unconstitutional and violated the state’s separation of powers. They asked a judge to order that paychecks be issued.
Judge Neil Cohen has set a Sept. 18 court date to hear arguments.
Meanwhile, legislators — whose base salary for the part-time post is $67,836 a year, with additional stipends for serving in leadership posts — are set to miss their second monthly paycheck.
Illinois’ five public-employee retirement funds have an unfunded liability of about $97 billion, due largely to lawmakers not making adequate payments to the funds.
This year, that yearly payment is about $6 billion — about one-fifth of the state’s general fund budget. Quinn and other lawmakers say paying that amount would take much-needed money away from areas such as public safety and education.
The Legislature has been unable to agree on a solution. Earlier this summer, Quinn suggested and legislators agreed to form a bipartisan conference committee to try to come up with a fix. The 10-member panel held hearings and has since been drafting a potential solution in closed-door meetings.
Among the ideas they’re considering is eliminating automatic 3 percent cost-of-living pension increases for retirees and basing retirement benefits on the salary earned over a person’s career, not on the higher salary they earn right before retirement.