Illinois governor suspends salary of state legislature
Last week, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn suspended the pay of state lawmakers in the General Assembly to force action on the state’s pension debt crisis.
Quinn used his position to force action regarding the state’s unfunded pension liability problem, the worst in America, according to the Chicagoist.com. According to CBS News, lawmakers in Illinois have skimped on payments to the five retirement systems in Illinois for decades, resulting in $100 billion of pension liability.
The General Assembly has received warnings since 2006 that failure to make the correct payments to state pension funds would lead to a financial disaster, according to the Chicago Tribune. The Illinois legislature has repeatedly failed to develop or pass a comprehensive pension program, leaving the issue unresolved, according to CNN News. The inability to solve the pension debt problem has led to multiple credit rating downgrades, resulting in Illinois paying extra interest of at least $130 million in a bond sale last month, according to CBS News.
Quinn used his line-item veto power on the budget, withholding the Illinois lawmakers’ $68,000 annual salaries until the pension problem is resolved, according to the Huffington Post. "They must have that alarm bell ringing in their ears, and the best way to do that is to hit them in the wallet," Quinn said at a press conference in Chicago.
The affected Illinois lawmakers were frustrated by the governor’s decision, believing that his line-item veto was a political stunt that would create more problems, according to the Huffington Post. "The governor's actions today are as unproductive as [July 9] arbitrary deadline. Responsible leaders know that unworkable demands will only delay progress," Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton said in a statement.
The Illinois lawmakers have the power to reject any line-item vetoes made by the governor, but they have to vote to make the changes, according to CBS News. No vote has been scheduled yet.
Illinois comptroller Judy Baar Topinka has requested that her staff perform a legal review of Quinn’s actions over the next three weeks, according to the Chicago Tribune. Legal precedent in Illinois and the Illinois Constitution do not allow the governor to cut lawmakers’ pay during their term of office, according to Chicagoist.com.
According to the Chicago Tribune, lawmakers’ get their checks Aug. 1, which is the same time that the legal review will be completed. Quinn ordered his own pay to be withheld until the pension problem is resolved, and he defended his actions as being well within his rights as governor, according to CNN News. “I've tried everything in the book to get their attention, but it's time now for the legislature to legislate,” Quinn said in a press conference.