Illinois lawmakers must be paid, a Cook County judge ruled on Thursday, in response to Gov. Pat Quinn's decision to suspend lawmakers' salaries because of their failure to solve the state's pension crisis. Judge Neil Cohen ruled the move to withhold pay unconstitutional. Chicago Sun-Times Springfield Bureau Chief Dave McKinney gives us the details. Read the full memorandum opinion and order.
Quinn issued the following statement in response to the ruling:
“I respectfully disagree with the judge’s decision. On behalf of Illinois taxpayers, I intend to appeal the decision and seek a court stay that would prevent any legislative paychecks from being issued until this case is considered by a higher court. However, this case is about far more than just the Governor’s constitutional authority to suspend the appropriations for legislative paychecks. The reason I suspended legislative paychecks in the first place – and refused to accept my own – is because Illinois taxpayers can’t afford an endless cycle of promises, excuses, delays and inertia on the most critical challenge of our time. Illinois’ pension crisis is costing taxpayers millions of dollars a day; robbing our children of the education and public safety services they desperately need; and holding our economy back from real recovery. I will not accept a paycheck until a comprehensive pension reform bill is on my desk, and neither should legislators. Nobody in Springfield should get paid until the pension reform job gets done.”
Senate President John Cullerton released the following statement on the order:
“Today the circuit court vindicated the Illinois Constitution as Judge Cohen ruled to protect and preserve the separation of powers. Now that the governor’s actions have been answered by a court, I trust that we can put aside all distractions and focus on the goal of pension reform. Pension reform remains our top priority. Even while this case was pending, the legislature never stopped working on this issue. I applaud the progress of the pension conference committee as its members shape a pension plan that maximizes our savings and upholds a fundamental standard of fairness.”