Lawmakers respond to Quinn’s paycheck cuts

by CYRYL JAKUBOWSKI Northwest Side legislators criticized Governor Pat Quinn’s decision to suspend pay for state lawmakers and called the move a political stunt that is counterproductive to achieving pension reform. Quinn issued a line-item veto of House Bill 214 that suspended pay for Illinois legislators on July 10. He said that his action was caused by years of inertia on pension reform while the state’s unfunded pension debt grows by millions of dollars a day, according to a press release. “In this budget, there should be no paychecks for legislators until they get the job done on pension reform,” Quinn said. “Pension reform is the most critical job for all of us in public office. I cannot in good conscience approve legislation that provides paychecks to legislators who are not doing their job for the taxpayers.” Quinn said that he will not accept his salary until the General Assembly sends him a pension reform bill. State lawmakers earn $67,836 annually, along with stipends for leadership positions, both of which were suspended by Quinn, who vetoed $13,852,700 in appropriations for legislators’ pay. “Of course it’s a political stunt,” state Representative Robert Martwick (D-19) said. “The reality of it is that anything that we get done doesn’t take effect until January 1. Quinn gets the idea to suspend everyone’s paychecks, and it sends the message that we are not doing our jobs.” Martwick said that that both chambers of the legislature have been working on pension bills because the governor called a conference committee in June as a vehicle to work out a compromise on the issue. Quinn asked the conference committee to act on a compromise that would erase unfunded liability and provide 100 percent funding for the pension systems by July 9. Martwick said that he attended some of the committee hearings and that the panel of 10 legislators is making headway and working on reaching a compromise. “The point of the hearings was to get 10 bipartisan legislators who want to reach a solution, but you can’t put something together without knowing how it will work first,” Martwick said. “It takes more than two weeks to get the results from the actuaries. It was an unreasonable deadline.” The July 9 deadline was set because it also was the deadline for lawmakers to vote on Quinn’s veto of the concealed-carry measure, which they overrode. “I agree that people who are not making headway in legislature should not get a paycheck, but the way to punish legislators for not doing their jobs is at the ballot box,” Martwick said. “It’s nonsense and it’s not productive.” State Senator John Mulroe (D-10) said that he is concerned about the constitutionality of Quinn’s actions and the message that it sends. “It is written in our Constitution that salaries can’t be changed while people are in office,” Mulroe said. “He can’t undo his own veto, and we would probably have to override it. “I keep hearing that we are not doing anything. This was set up as a clash between the Senate and the House, and they set up this committee that was supposed to work on the issue.” Mulroe said that he understands that the public likes to see the governor bully legislators. However, he said, “It’s a political stunt, and whatever the governor thinks he will gain by this will be short-lived.” State Representative Greg Harris (D-13) also questioned the constitutionality of Quinn’s action. “What point does a governor make when he can veto out your paycheck when you don’t agree with fill in the blank here,” Harris said. “It is my legal understanding that there is a provision in the Constitution that prevents the change or reduction of pay for an elected official while he is in office. “This was done so that when people get elected they don’t give themselves raises. It also prevents either presidents or governors from acting like dictators,” Harris said. Quinn’s said that the state pension crisis was created due to 70 years of fiscal mismanagement by previous governors and legislatures. “This is an emergency, the taxpayers of Illinois are waiting, and there is no excuse for further legislative delay,” he said. “The taxpayers cannot afford an endless cycle of delays, excuses and more delays.” State Representative John D’Amico (D-15) said that lawmakers are making progress on pension reform but that there also are constitutionality issues involved. “It’s one of those slippery-slope things if he can do it,” D’Amico said. “It’s one of those things that if you don’t do what he wants you to do, then he can cut your pay because you were against him. Is that right?” Legislators said that for many of the members of the General Assembly, the elected position is a full-time job. “What about the 50 percent of the legislators who are full-time?” Martwick said. “Why are they being punished when they have nothing to vote for?” Mulroe said that the conference committee should be allowed to do its job. “Work the bills, see if it they are constitutional, see what the savings will be,” he said. “I think that it had good momentum, and Quinn does this? “The people on that committee are professionals and they will do their jobs regardless if they are getting pay on this. It’s just all a big distraction.”


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