Legislative leaders sue Quinn over withheld pay

2013-07-30T18:21:00Z 2013-07-30T18:29:38Z Legislative leaders sue Quinn over withheld payBy Kurt Erickson |

SPRINGFIELD — The leaders of the Illinois House and Senate sued Gov. Pat Quinn on Tuesday over his decision to eliminate the salaries of state lawmakers.

In a 12-page complaint filed in Cook County court, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton said the governor’s July 10 veto of salaries is an unconstitutional maneuver that must be checked in order to keep future governors from trying the tactic.

“Not since Governor (Rod) Blagojevich attempted to reduce the salaries of Illinois judges in 2003 have the actions of the executive branch so threatened the independence of a co-equal branch of government,” the lawsuit notes.

Quinn, who was Blagojevich’s running mate when the judges won their 2003 case to receive cost-of-living increases, used his veto pen to strike out funding for lawmaker salaries, arguing that they should not be paid until they fix the state’s pension problems.

In a joint letter, Madigan and Cullerton said future governors could employ the same tactic to threaten the General Assembly, judges or other statewide officials in order to push through his or her own pet projects.

“In this case, the governor is seeking changes to the pension system, but next time it could be tax policy, gun control, or education reform. The possibilities are endless,” the two Chicago Democrats added.

The move comes two days before lawmakers would normally have been paid for the month of July.

With no paychecks, some have inquired about getting short-term loans. Others have outside employment to augment the loss of their state pay.

Lawmakers receive a base salary of $67,836 but often make at least $10,000 more for serving in various leadership positions.

Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka last week said she can’t pay the salaries unless the veto is overridden or a judge orders her to write the checks.

In a statement, Quinn called the lawsuit “just plain wrong.”

“If legislators had put forth the same effort to draw up a pension reform agreement that they did in crafting this lawsuit, pension reform could have been done by now,” he said. “Instead of focusing on resolving the state’s pension crisis, which is costing taxpayers millions of dollars a day, legislators have chosen to focus on their own paychecks and waste taxpayer time and money on this lawsuit.”

In the suit, Madigan and Cullerton argue the Illinois Constitution protects the salaries of members of the judiciary, the legislature and the executive branch and should not be tampered with during the middle of a term in office.

“These provisions were added to safeguard the people from a weakened judiciary, to ensure the legislature could not diminish the power of the executive, and to prohibit the governor from running roughshod over the legislature,” they said in the letter.

“Just as it would be inappropriate for the General Assembly to refuse to appropriate a constitutional officer’s salary simply because we disagree with his or her philosophy, it is no less offensive for the governor to attempt to withhold legislators’ salaries because they have not complied with his demand for action on a particular issue,” the two added.

Quinn contended he’s on solid legal footing.

“My action to suspend the appropriation for legislative pay is clearly within the express provisions of the Illinois Constitution,” he noted. “Legislators should not be rewarded for an endless cycle of promises, excuses, delay and inertia on the pension problem.”

A special committee of lawmakers has been meeting in recent weeks in an effort to hammer out a pension compromise, but there is no set date for the General Assembly to return to action.

A coalition of labor unions issued a statement restating its contention that the Illinois Constitution bars lawmakers from diminishing the pension benefits of retirees.

“Lawmakers must not cherry-pick or apply a double standard in determining what parts of the constitution should be defended. They shouldn’t adhere to the constitution only when it’s convenient,” the We Are One coalition noted in a statement.

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(22) Comments

  1. parrot
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    parrot - July 31, 2013 5:04 pm
    I'm responding to Earlyriser54 and all the others who think state retirees deserve what we're getting. By the way, this Pantagraph system of replying to comments can become very confusing after several rounds. They might want to think about changing the procedure.

    OK, I was an EMPLOYEE. Did not know it was my job to keep a political scoreboard of who was in charge when. I hate the system as much as you do. AND PLEASE, ANYBODY WHO IS THINKING ABOUT WORKING FOR THE STATE, OR SENDING YOUR CHILD TO ILLINOIS STATE UNIVERSITY, THINK AGAIN! If I could go back 35 years, I would, but I can't. Glad you have all the solutions. I did what I was supposed to. My family is suffering for it.
  2. earlyriser54
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    earlyriser54 - July 31, 2013 4:57 pm
    Towanda Jose, here is a link that descirbes your beloved democrats by a former Chcaigo alderman who is currently a UIC professor of professional corruption. He certainly has had plenty of experience on the subject and it is very interesting reading.
  3. earlyriser54
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    earlyriser54 - July 31, 2013 4:44 pm
    You were a state employee long enough to retire and you don't know who is responsible for your troubles? I don't buy that at all and YOU KNOW FULL WELL the democrats have had the majority in the house and senate 32 out of the last 40 years.
  4. Forest Gump
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    Forest Gump - July 31, 2013 2:18 pm
    Ya gotta love it. Pension reform exposes the dysfunctional Democrats for the whole world to see. Illinois continues to be the laughingstock of the nation.
  5. Jose
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    Jose - July 31, 2013 12:04 pm
    And, since conserve jingoists NEVER check beyond the first listing on Google or wherever, you can read the whole disgusting mess here:

    See, I rather think this is the strategic failure that's losing the culture war for them.

    Their base is *already* onboard, and demonstrably shrinking.

    Educated voters of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds increasingly reject their positions. Frankly, I'm a huge believer that the more they spout off, the more apparent the moral, logical, and ethical vacuity of their position.

    Add to that, their horrible miscalculation that poor English skills means their propaganda is winning -- well, anyone with intelligence can see our country is filled with barely-literate idiots who sustain themselves with catchphrases and manufactured indignation. Groundswell may be composed of loathsome individuals, but their assessment is spot-on. Our rights depend far more on advertising and sitcoms than they do on reasoned, thoughtful arguments.

  6. Shugs
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    Shugs - July 31, 2013 11:55 am
    You are barking up the wrong tree. For 20 years, I had to take on a second, sometimes a third job, paying in to SS. Since I have TRS, that money is forfeited. DoubleDipping my foot! Since I won't see a dime of my SS , in which I paid, you're welcome.
  7. Luvfastpitch
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    Luvfastpitch - July 31, 2013 11:53 am
    YOU Assume all the employees pensions and salaries the parrot wrote about are union. YOU are wrong. Parrot makes a valid point, the governor and legislates thinks they are exempt from the rules & laws they shove on others. No one in Springfield or Washington gets anything done unless it benefits themselves FIRST.
  8. Jose
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    Jose - July 31, 2013 10:19 am
    Operation Groundswell.

    Thanks, crooked conservos.
  9. wise 1
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    wise 1 - July 31, 2013 10:13 am
  10. nnya
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    nnya - July 31, 2013 10:01 am
    You know.....there is never any talk about the excessive extra pay granted to members who sit on committees that rarely if ever meet. The fact that like teachers they get summers and winter breaks, they spend a lot of time campaigning when they should be WORKING, the double dipping of pensions if they have served in state, local, county governments, the GAR system (General Assembly Retirement) or the judges retirement system both which pay far more to their members than any lower level union retiree.
  11. Night Voices
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    Night Voices - July 31, 2013 10:01 am
    Poor legislators, didn't get paid. WAIT....I believe every fall WE THE PEOPLE are held hostage to their antics and horrendously poor job performance. Do I feel sorry for them? NOPE...How about they abide by the same rules as we do. Balance the budget for your house, take responsibility for your actions, or lack thereof.
    I am so sick of all this silly posturing, chest thumping, and empty threats. DO YOUR JOB, or WE THE PEOPLE will fire you and find someone more fitting and willing to work
  12. mestizo
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    mestizo - July 31, 2013 9:56 am
    I heard the day of a credit union which provides no interest loans for all state of Illinois employees. So, they in effect get paid in spite of the pay freeze, if they want to. Even the useless legislators get a break, which is more than us peons get. Throw the bums out!
  13. Josh
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    Josh - July 31, 2013 9:33 am
    I think it's laughable that Madigan and Cullerton now will talk about what is constitutional and what isn't. Madigan's plan was at best unconstitutional and Cullerton's had a few positives in it. Neither one has any regard for other state employees pensions. But as soon as something will affect them, the loud outcry comes. Our whole Legislature, Republican and Democrat, is as crooked as can be.
  14. wise 1
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    wise 1 - July 31, 2013 9:02 am
  15. parrot
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    parrot - July 31, 2013 8:23 am
    Hey, don't presume to know what organizations I belonged to or who I voted for. Never a union member while employed and voted for plenty of Republicans in my day. Funny it's OK for Madigan and Cullerton to cry "Constitution, Constitution!" when it comes to their own wallets, but state retirees "are getting what we deserve." Yes we were had, by our employer, the State of Illinois, and whoever was in charge the past 40 years.
  16. earlyriser54
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    earlyriser54 - July 31, 2013 8:04 am
    Hey, you have NO ONE to blame for your woes but YOURSLEVES. Thats right you and your union brothers have spent your working lives donating, supporting, and campaigning for every crooked democrat that has come down the pike, and you acheived your objective; YOU got them elected and continue to keep them in power. Now that it has come down to either THEM or YOU, do you actually think you are going to get what you have been PROMISED? As far as I am concerned you and your special interest groups ie. unions, are getting what democrats have given the rest of us all these years. How does it feel to know you have been had by the democrats,just like the rest of the hard working people of this state?
  17. Treefrog
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    Treefrog - July 31, 2013 7:40 am
    I don't even know what to say. Madigan, and many others were around in the '80s when the "pension crisis" first reared its head and requirements were created to "solve" the pending crisis. Since then, the General Assembly has skipped required payments to the pensions or severely shorted them. Now, it's a crisis of their own mismanagement and the hardworking people who are required to contribute may suffer. But, the citizens can't file a lawsuit against them or the State. Shameful
  18. parrot
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    parrot - July 31, 2013 6:41 am
    Madigan and Cullerton think the constitution protects THEIR salaries? What about their plans to DESTROY my pension? It's all theatrics....the only ones who will suffer are the rank and file employees and retirees who will eventually be punished for playing by the rules.
  19. The Unforgiven
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    The Unforgiven - July 31, 2013 12:33 am
    I'm not a huge fan of Quinn but at least he finally got some guts! This is one of the few things I actually agree with him on. Like Quinn said, if the congressmen worked as hard to fix pension reform as they did on this lawsuit it'd have been finished by now.Amazingly enough they filed their lawsuit in Chicago, the same city that Madigan's throne sits.
  20. Oscar Matilda
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    Oscar Matilda - July 30, 2013 8:53 pm
    Our Founding Fathers had not intended the members of the congress to be paid salary. From 1789 to 1815, members of Congress received only a per diem (daily payment) of $6.00 while in session. Members began receiving an annual salary in 1815, when they were paid $1,500 per year.. States had followed the same principle.

    I am with Quinn on this. We all should be. Wouldn't it be more politically correct and easier for the law makers to work on the pension reform to start getting their paychecks instead of spending their time and effort with this lawsuit?
  21. Chadwick Snow
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    Chadwick Snow - July 30, 2013 7:22 pm
    One has to wonder what constitutes the makeup of these folks. First, absent anything else the opinion of the public of the performance and character of the General Assembly is well below that of a common slug. It would have been much smarter for the leadership to leave well enough alone when it comes to the pay embargo. Most people believe they have not earned their pay and, in fact, have been inimical to the welfare of the state. Now this. A whining, money grubbing, attempt to hold their hands out to be paid when their performance, and that applies to both parties, has been hardly worth a dime of public money. Lisa Madigan is now at odds with her dad. This dysfunctional family is ripe for a bad reality series.
  22. justagoodoleboy
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    justagoodoleboy - July 30, 2013 7:08 pm
    Wow, just wow. As long as they get theirs they don't care how much they screw the state employees and retirees!
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