Judge denies Quinn bid to keep lawmaker pay freeze - New York News

Judge denies Quinn bid to keep lawmaker pay freeze

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CHICAGO (Associated Press) -

A judge refused Gov. Pat Quinn's request on Friday to stop legislators from being paid while he appeals a court ruling that determined withholding the money -- a consequence he imposed for lawmakers' inaction on Illinois' massive pension crisis -- was unconstitutional.

The decision by Cook County Judge Neil Cohen clears the way for legislators to get paid. Cohen said Quinn violated the Illinois Constitution by withholding the checks for two months when he used his line-item veto to cut $13.1 million for lawmaker salaries from the state budget.

Quinn had said he was angry that legislators hadn't found a fix for Illinois' nearly $100 billion pension shortfall. He also refused to accept his own paychecks.

"I do understand where his heart is," Cohen said during Friday's ruling. "But that's politics. That's not the law."

Cohen on Thursday ordered Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka to immediately pay legislators the paychecks they've missed since the governor's July veto. Topinka, a Republican who controls the state's checkbook, said that night that her office already was processing the checks.

Lawmakers with direct deposit got money in their bank accounts Friday morning. The next set of paychecks is set to be processed Friday afternoon.

Legislators make a base salary of about $67,000, plus bonuses for serving in leadership. The bonuses also haven't been paid.

Quinn's attorneys said they will appeal and were filing an emergency request to a state appeals court to stop lawmakers from being paid. But it's unclear if a ruling could come soon enough to stop the next round of paychecks from being issued.

House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton sued after the governor stopped the paychecks, saying their fellow Chicago Democrat had violated the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches. They also argued that a provision of the Illinois Constitution stated that lawmakers' pay couldn't be changed during their current term in office.

The governor said that if legislators wanted to be paid, they could return to Springfield and vote to override the veto -- a move he acknowledged could be unpopular with voters. He argued that the section of the constitution that says lawmaker salaries can't be changed was intended to mean they couldn't be increased, but that cuts were OK.

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