Judge: Quinn has to pay lawmakers
September 26, 2013 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- A pay freeze for Illinois lawmakers is ruled unconstitutional, as a judge rules that Governor Pat Quinn must reinstate lawmaker salaries immediately.
Quinn says he will appeal Thursday afternoon's ruling on the salaries lawsuit.
In the court's most recent advisory last week, it said that a ruling should be expected any time before next Thursday, so when Judge Neil Cohen ruled Thursday, it was something of a surprise.
The belief is that he was trying to get money in lawmakers' hands as quickly as possible and to rule before the next lawmaker payday on Monday.
Judge Cohen based his eight-page ruling on the state constitution.
He wrote, "the governor's line item veto of house bill 214 violated Article IV, Section 11 of the Illinois constitution" that forbids the executive from reducing or eliminating legislator pay during a lawmakers' term.
Cohen ordered state Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka to immediately issue general assembly paychecks, including the two lawmakers missed for July and August, plus interest.
"We are starting the processing," Topinka said. "They'll be processed (Thursday night). Many of them will have the checks (Friday), I figure."
Governor Quinn announced his veto in June, hoping to pressure 178 House and Senate members to pass reform legislation to address the state's $100 billion dollar unfunded pension liability.
The governor issued a statement Thursday afternoon vowing to appeal the judge's decision.
"Because Illinois taxpayers can't afford an endless cycle of promises, excuses, delays and inertia," Quinn wrote.
State Senator Kwame Raoul applauded the judge's decision. Raoul chairs the House/Senate conference committee on pension reform and said the pay freeze had no effect on his panel's deliberations.
"If the Judge had upheld the governor's action, any governor in the future on any issue however big or small could decide, 'Oh well I'm going to legislate, I'm going to veto legislator's pay,'" Raoul said.
Finally, there's the question of what will happen to Governor Quinn's paychecks. He voluntarily did not accept the July and August payments, and he has another check due on Monday. He has not accepted them.
Comptroller Topinka is still trying to find out what to do with that money if the governor will accept his checks now that the legislatures are going to be paid.
pat quinn, illinois legislature, state of illinois, politics, charles thomas
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