Judge blocks Quinn's bid to delay legislators' paychecks
BY DAVE McKINNEY Springfield Bureau Chief September 27, 2013 11:55AM
Updated: September 27, 2013 11:56AM
SPRINGFIELD-A Cook County judge Friday rejected Gov. Pat Quinn’s bid to keep legislators from getting their paychecks until the Illinois Supreme Court can weigh in on the constitutionality of the governor’s populist maneuver to broker a pension-reform deal.
For the second straight day, Judge Neil H. Cohen dealt the governor a legal blow in his effort to keep Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka from issuing three months of legislative paychecks to lawmakers that had been on hold since July.
On Thursday, Cohen ruled that Quinn overstepped his constitutional authority by using a line-item veto in July to strip legislative salaries from an appropriations bill in order to prod lawmakers into ending years of impasse and send him a package to solve the state’s $100 billion pension crisis.
The state Constitution says legislators’ salaries cannot be changed during their current terms in office, which was the basis of Cohen’s opinion against Quinn in a lawsuit brought against the governor by House Speaker Michael J. Madigan (D-Chicago) and Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago).
“I do understand where his heart is,” Cohen said of Quinn during Friday’s proceedings. “But that’s politics. That’s not the law.”
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.
There was no immediate response from the governor’s office to Cohen’s decision Friday against issuing a stay.
Meanwhile, Republican Treasurer Dan Rutherford, a 2014 candidate for governor, joined the bi-partisan chorus of officeholders Friday in calling on Quinn to drop his appeal.
“I think the judiciary has spoken. He should just let it be at rest,” Rutherford said in an interview in the Chicago Sun-Times Statehouse office.
Rutherford acknowledged Quinn’s initial move to block legislative pay carried populist appeal, but the Pontiac Republican called it a “bad move” that sets a dangerous precedent for long-term relations between the state’s executive and legislative branches of government.
“I think first of all it was a bad move to do the veto. Maybe he won the public-relations war with some of the citizenry on it, but I think it was bad for two reasons,” Rutherford told the Sun-Times.
“It really added a great deal of acidity in the waters between two co-equal branches of government, the executive and legislative. I just don’t see how this is going to enhance the ability to try to work together to help fix what Illinois needs to have fixed,” Rutherford said.
“The second thing is it also is a horrible precedent to set. At what point does a future governor say that he or she wants you to do something, and if you don’t general assembly, I’ll veto your salaries?” the treasurer said. “I just think it was a bad move.”