Madigan, Cullerton file lawsuit over halted pay - New York News

Madigan, Cullerton file lawsuit over halted pay

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CHICAGO (AP) -- The leaders of the Illinois House and Senate filed lawsuit Tuesday against Gov. Pat Quinn for blocking legislator salaries because of their inaction on the state's nearly $100 billion pension crisis.

Calling Quinn's actions "purely political and unconstitutional," House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton filed the 12-page complaint with the Circuit Court of Cook County.

"This matter is of fundamental constitutional importance, as Governor Quinn's action threatens the independence of each branch of government," Cullerton and Madigan said in a joint news release. "The Illinois Constitution protects the salaries of members of the judiciary, the legislature, and the executive branch."

Earlier this month, Quinn cut $13.8 million for legislators' paychecks in the state budget through his veto power. He had threatened consequences if lawmakers failed to act promptly on addressing the pension problem. When members of a bipartisan pension panel blew past another deadline the Chicago Democrat had set, he cut their salaries.

Quinn has defended the move as constitutional. Last week Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka said she had no choice but to withhold lawmaker paychecks, citing a previous court case. Quinn's office had no immediate comment on Tuesday.

In their statement, Cullerton and Madigan called Quinn's actions "an unconstitutional attempt to coerce the Legislature to comply with his demands."

They said that to ignore the governor's actions or override the veto would "severely and irrevocably compromise the independence of the Legislature and set a very dangerous precedent."

Bill Daley agreed, referring to the governor's act as a "side show" that is "hurting our school kids and stands in the way of creating jobs."

Quinn responded Tuesday saying the lawsuit is "just plain wrong."
 
In a statement, Quinn says if lawmakers put in that much effort into overhauling Illinois' pension mess, there could've been reform by now.

"Legislators should not be rewarded for an endless cycle of promises, excuses, delay and inertia on the pension problem," the statement continued. "They don't get paid if they don't do their jobs. And neither should members of the General Assembly."

Illinois has unprecedented pension debt because for years lawmakers have either skipped or shorted payments to the state's five retirement systems. Quinn has made reforming the system his top priority for about two years, but attempts to find a solution have largely gone nowhere.

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