Gov. Quinn pay freeze ruled legal

Published 07/25 2013 09:21PM

Updated 07/26 2013 11:48AM

SPRINGFIELD -- Lawmakers hoping to get their paychecks back are out of luck, for the time being. The State Comptroller thought it was illegal for Governor Quinn to strip lawmakers of their pay, but after looking into it, she says it's okay. WCIA 3's Steve Staeger has the report from the Capitol.

Governor Quinn froze lawmaker's paychecks to force their hand on pension reform. They could take it to court, or they could also come back here and override the Governor's veto. But Quinn is certainly hoping they'll just get the job done.

Two weeks ago, Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka (R) said she didn't think it was legal for the governor to strip lawmakers of their pay. Her team studied it for a couple of weeks, and found a case that backs up the Governor.

"In that case, the court ruled that the Comptroller could not pay state employees without an appropriation."

It means Topinka won't write lawmakers their next paycheck, or any, for that matter. At least until the governor puts the money back in.

Topinka not a fan of Quinn's move.

"You know, I couldn't leave this alone just on its own. Even though I'm not a lawyer, and didn't play (one) on TV, by editorial comment, let me be clear: this is no way to run a government."

"Threats, blackmail and inertia may be good theater, but it makes us look ridiculous and it takes away from our ability to get things done. So I think it's time for leaders to lead."

But she agrees the pension problem needs to be solved, and points to the backlog of bills on her desk to prove it.

"We have 78, 403 unpaid bills, totaling just under $5 billion.  So we estimate there's another $1.8 billion at state agencies for a grand total of $6.8 billion. By about Christmas, we'll be at 9 (billion)."

Lawmakers will return here in October for the veto session. They could get called back earlier than that to vote on a pension plan, but so far, no lawmakers have challenged this salary cut in court.

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