A Cook County Circuit Court judge was expected to hear arguments Wednesday in a lawsuit challenging Gov. Pat Quinn’s decision to stop lawmakers from being paid until they agree on how to deal with Illinois’ nearly $100 billion public pension problem.
House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton sued after Quinn used his line-item veto earlier this summer to cut money for legislators’ salaries from the state budget. They contend that their fellow Chicago Democrat’s actions were unconstitutional and violated the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches.
The lawmakers have asked Judge Neil Cohen to order paychecks to be issued. Cohen set oral arguments for Wednesday. It was unclear if he planned to rule immediately following the hearing or at a later date.
There are a number of potential outcomes to the hearing before Judge Neil Cohen. He could rule legislators should be paid immediately with back pay. He could rule in favor of lawmakers but put the decision on hold while the governor’s office appeals it. He could stand by Quinn. And Cohen could listen to arguments and take some time to deliberate.
Quinn, in a July 30 statement, called the lawsuit “just plain wrong.”
The governor’s intent shouldn’t be disregarded, his attorneys said in a Sept. 13 court filing. “A line-item veto, after all, is part of a legislative process for which the fulfillment of legislative intent is the primary objective.”
The Legislature maintains the power to override his veto rendering the lawsuit moot, Quinn said in an earlier filing.
The lawmakers disputed Quinn’s assertion their case was merely hypothetical because the legislative process hasn’t run its course.
“This will come as a surprise to the legislators (and their families), who now have not been paid for two months,” Madigan and Cullerton said in a Sept. 6 filing. “Perhaps their banks can issue hypothetical credits to their accounts so that they can write hypothetical checks to pay their very real monthly bills.”
Subscribers have those September filings.