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Gov. Quinn appeals ruling that tossed out veto on legislators’ pay

Gov. PQuinn

Gov. Pat Quinn

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Updated: November 4, 2013 12:16PM

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Pat Quinn asked the Illinois Supreme Court on Wednesday to set aside a lower court’s ruling that rejected his effort to block state lawmakers from being paid until they pass a pension-reform package to him.

In a six-page filing released by the Supreme Court, Quinn’s legal team argued that Cook County Judge Neil H. Cohen erred in tossing out the governor’s July amendatory veto that caused state lawmakers to miss two paychecks.

Cohen’s decision to back House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) and Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), who opposed Quinn’s move, revolved around constitutional language that prohibits legislators’ salaries from “changes” during their existing terms in office.

But on Wednesday, Quinn argued that Cohen ignored the governor’s constitutional right to veto appropriations bills and statements by delegates to the state’s 1970 constitutional convention that intended for the term “changes” to apply to increases in pay.

Quinn pointed to at least seven instances in which legislators voted to reduce their pay, dating back to the 92nd session of the General Assembly between 2001 and 2002.

Quinn’s legal team also renewed its pitch that the state’s courts needn’t act because the governor and state lawmakers are still not legally at a stalemate over legislative pay because the House and Senate have not moved to override Quinn’s July amendatory veto, as they could do under the state Constitution — though such a roll call could put many lawmakers in a highly uncomfortable political box heading into the 2014 elections.

“Ordinarily, when a veto rankles the General Assembly, the appropriate and constitutionally sanctioned response is to seek to override it. Here, the plaintiffs are asking the courts to intercede in this controversy before the General Assembly has decided whether to try to override the veto and, therefore, before it has become apparent whether the legislative and executive branches will reach an impasse,” Quinn’s lawyers wrote in their filing Wednesday.

The state Supreme Court offered no hint on when it may decide whether to take up Quinn’s motion for appeal.

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