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Cullerton unsure of pay hike rollback

Tuesday, Jul 28, 2015

* As I told subscribers earlier today, the Senate wasn’t consulted beforehand and won’t be back to town until after legislators receive their first paychecks with the COLA increases in them, which means there are some constitutional issues

The Illinois House on Tuesday voted to repeal the annual cost-of-living increase that bumped up lawmakers’ salaries as Democrats who control the chamber tried to blunt Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s contention that legislators should not get raises while the state budget goes unresolved. […]

But a spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton said his office would have to review the constitutionality of the pay raise legislation. That’s because a Cook County court previously has ruled it would violate the state constitution for legislative salaries to be changed in the middle of a term. That court decision followed an effort in 2013 by then-Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn to hold up lawmaker pay as he tried to get them to send him a cost-cutting pension bill.

“It’s something that the court ruled, that, because of separation of powers, you can’t have a situation where the executive branch, like Gov. Quinn, holds up people’s salaries in order to force them to vote for a bill,” Cullerton said last week.

“Unfortunately, it’s the state constitution. And I think you would understand that if we didn’t like some judicial decision, we said, ‘Oh, Supreme Court, you’re working for $1 now,’ that would obviously not be a part of the separation of powers. It’s the same principle.”

* From the Constitution

A member shall receive a salary and allowances as provided by law, but changes in the salary of a member shall not take effect during the term for which he has been elected.

The salary changes were approved in the previous term. Once they start getting paychecks, it’s probably not legal to lower those salaries.

The big question is, though, would anybody have the, um, temerity to sue? Probably not.

* React from the governor’s office…

“Governor Rauner appreciates today’s action in the House and thanks all those members who showed leadership on this issue. We encourage President Cullerton to swiftly move this legislation to the governor’s desk for his signature. Governor Rauner is ready to work with Speaker Madigan, Leader Durkin and all members of the General Assembly to pass true structural reforms and a balanced budget.”

- Posted by Rich Miller        

44 Comments
  1. - thunderspirit - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 3:01 pm:

    It’s absolutely unconstitutional to lower the salaries now. That’s pretty clear by the language in the document.

    But I highly doubt anyone will bring a suit. (Besides, has the language in the document ever mattered before?)


  2. - Allen D - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 3:10 pm:

    – It’s absolutely unconstitutional to lower the salaries now. That’s pretty clear by the language in the document.

    But I highly doubt anyone will bring a suit. (Besides, has the language in the document ever mattered before?)

    Well said thunderspirit, as in issuing checks with no appropriations… Hrmm, what does that mean?


  3. - Wow - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 3:17 pm:

    The Gov wants to work to fix the budget??? Here is a novel idea, put forth a budget and gave Durkin sponsor it…


  4. - Austin Blvd - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 3:22 pm:

    Rainer forgot to add:
    Never mind that I introduced them in my budget. I therefore forgive myself too.


  5. - phocion - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 3:22 pm:

    Don’t think Rauner saw that one coming! Best not to spend all of your time bashing the Speaker when it’s a good bet the Speaker and the Senate President ultimately have each others’ backs.


  6. - Triple fat - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 3:22 pm:

    That wacky Governor - always proposing Unconstitutional solutions and then praising Unconstitutioal legislation… What a guy!


  7. - me - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 3:25 pm:

    sort of like when negotiated raises were denied to employees of DHS and IDOC? The house and senate have not had any problem with helping deny it then delaying the votes on appropriations to pay it back after several judges have ruled they must….. love self serving blinders


  8. - Cindy Lou - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 3:25 pm:

    What bothers me, in situations such as this, is the line f thinking that it’s ‘ok’ to not follow our Constitution as long as *we* figure no one will sue. Should the constitution only be followed when it’s pleasing to so? Clung to for dear life with the battle cry of ‘that is unconstitutional’ when we’re displeased?


  9. - x ace - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 3:33 pm:

    Constitution Must be Followed. No Choice.


  10. - Wensicia - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 3:41 pm:

    Madigan: “Sorry, Rauner, I tried. This triangulation thing sure is a bummer at times like this.”


  11. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 3:46 pm:

    “Wait. Wait. You mean BOTH have to vote to stop the COLA? Oh… well… I didn’t know THAT…” - Gov. Rauner after lighting a “Victory Cigar”


  12. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 3:47 pm:

    This is not typical of MJM to miss this political move.
    SNAFU


  13. - Norseman - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 3:55 pm:

    The frat boys are chomping at the bit for Cullerton to refuse to move the bill.


  14. - Beaner - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 3:59 pm:

    The top casino wagering tax rate is 50% and does not apply until $200 million. So only the Des Plaines casino pays any amount at this tax rate. A 90% tax rate on amounts over $1 million would bring in $800 million and deposited in the Common School fund could be a great help in funding Education…finally. 10% of the pot for administering a licensed numbers game is generous. The 30% currently received is pretty lame.


  15. - Former Hoosier - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 4:00 pm:

    Good cop-Bad cop as a way for MJM and Cullerton to bring to light the fact that the Gov., who has been hounding them to rescind the raise, didn’t know that to do so would be unconstitutional?


  16. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 4:00 pm:

    ===The frat boys are chomping at the bit for Cullerton to refuse to move the bill.===

    That is probably true.

    - Norseman - you remember the days when we all here would mock Quinn for not having Floor Leaders, let alone effective Floor Leaders?

    Has it now evolved to the Governor’s Office forgetting that legislative stuff entirely and just campaign all the time against the Legislative Leaders… for sport?

    Not the way to run a railroad.


  17. - Concerned citizen - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 4:08 pm:

    Just heard wbbm radio describe the House vote as a victory for Rauner.


  18. - Austin Blvd - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 4:14 pm:

    Yes, Bruce has brought them to their knees.


  19. - Triple fat - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 4:17 pm:

    Who hoo. One Uncondtitutional victory down - a couple of Unconstitutional victories to go! The Governor is on fire.


  20. - Downstate - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 4:20 pm:

    Unconstitutional to reduce salaries.
    Unconstitutional to reduce pensions.
    Unconstitutional to stop paying payroll.
    The fiscal train is out of control and can’t be stopped.

    This is well teed up for a state-wide vote on keeping these constitutional provisions.


  21. - Slide - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 4:24 pm:

    Looks like a win, win, win for Madigan.
    1) Takes heat off Dems
    2) Gives Rauner a meaningless ‘victory’ that gives Madigan leverage in the stalemate (I met you half way; your turn…)
    3) Cullerton will stand on Constitutional Principle, meaning the GA gets to keep its raise.
    Check, Check, Check >>> Win, Win, Win!


  22. - Anon - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 4:38 pm:

    ===Unconstitutional to reduce salaries.===
    ===Unconstitutional to reduce pensions.===
    ===Unconstitutional to stop paying payroll.===

    You should consider this to read as being unconstitutional for the State to demand work without pay and to promise pensions in exchange for work, and then break those promises.

    ===The fiscal train is out of control and can’t be stopped.===

    We’re talking about 1% of the state’s GDP here. Gain some perspective.


  23. - Anon - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 4:39 pm:

    Cullerton should allow the Senate to vote and pass the bill. There is absolutely no reason why he should be punished for being the only adult in the process.

    Let Lisa Madigan and the Courts be the adults. That’s the best way to govern.


  24. - Bulldog58 - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 4:39 pm:

    “to pass true structural reforms and a balanced budget”

    Still clinging to their non-starter reforms. The budget held hostage over reforms that will not happen.


  25. - Mama - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 4:44 pm:

    Please explain why the Republicans did not vote for a tax freeze.


  26. - Subtlely - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 4:52 pm:

    ~~ That’s the best way to govern. ~~~
    Being an adult is the best way to govern. You’re talking about the best politics; which offers a different set of risks and benefits.


  27. - Ben Franklin - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 4:54 pm:

    Isn’t it disingenuous of the GOV, outright deceitful, to make an issue of pay set by last year’s General Assembly when he knows the law? We’re becoming a state of men and no longer a state of laws, which is how businesses operate, and that’s terrible for government.


  28. - thoughts matter - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 4:58 pm:

    Just like several other pieces of legislation in the past few years, it shouldn’t become a law if it is knowingly unconstitutional. Legislators swear to uphold the constitution. Constitutional officers do too - so I would think Lisa would be required to contest it in court as she did paychecks for state employees earlier this month.

    I do think however that Rauner just got masterfully played by Madigan and Cullerton.


  29. - Century Club - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 5:06 pm:

    ==The big question is, though, would anybody have the, um, temerity to sue? Probably not.==

    I never bet against people who can raise their own pay. Will Davis voted against it and 16 others missed the vote. Or a lame duck? Why not wait until the budget is passed and then sue? I’m guessing that even if you didn’t recover lost wages, you’d at least get the COLA moving forward.


  30. - Last Bull Moose - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 5:20 pm:

    The theater continues.

    Cut the pay for legislators from the next election. That would be legal.

    Won’t happen.


  31. - Timmeh - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 5:34 pm:

    ==Cut the pay for legislators from the next election. That would be legal.==

    Actually, I think that would be the icing on this cake for MJM and Cullerton… if MJM decides this cake needs icing.


  32. - All the answers - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 5:49 pm:

    You only need one person to sue. Just one. ;)


  33. - burbanite - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 6:21 pm:

    I think Cindy Lou’s comment goes to the heart of it. If it is unconstitutional and Lisa M. doesn’t address it I will have to take back my defense of her fighting in court over the employee pay without a budget based on the constitution. You can’t pick and chose the fights, if its unconstitutional, its unconstitutional. Don’t like it? Change the constitution.


  34. - Michael - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 6:43 pm:

    So the constitution says “A member shall receive a salary and allowances as provided by law, but changes in the salary of a member shall not take effect during the term for which he has been elected.” And this term isn’t over yet. How can the raise take effect? It would seem that in cannot take effect until this term is over and before the next term starts.


  35. - Archiesmom - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 6:52 pm:

    Once again, the Constitution becomes a political pawn. I know more than one legislator who wants to vote against this on principle, but doesn’t want to see it pop up on a GOP mailer next year.


  36. - Timmeh - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 6:53 pm:

    Michael: The COLA increases were approved last year, but without a budget, the money hasn’t been appropriated.


  37. - Not it - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 7:40 pm:

    Where was Cullerton’s concern for the Constitution when the Senate passed an unconstitutional budget, or unconstitutional pension reform? Now he decides to stand up and express concern? NOW?!?!


  38. - burbanite - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 8:14 pm:

    Cullerton expressed concern over the constitutionality of the pension reform that was shot down by the Supreme Court. And it is my understanding that the constitution requires the Governor, not the Senate President to present a balanced budget.


  39. - Facts are Stubborn Things - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 8:53 pm:

    It is all about taking a vote to protect members.


  40. - Just Me - Tuesday, Jul 28, 15 @ 10:50 pm:

    Burbanite: The Constitution requires a balanced budget. Period. The Democrats knowingly passed an unbalanced budget. They are just as guilty, I would argue even more so than the Governor because he argued his budget was balanced, while the Democrats openly acknowledged their budget was unbalanced and seemed to take delight in that fact.


  41. - Norseman - Wednesday, Jul 29, 15 @ 12:16 am:

    Just Me, the “Constitution requires a balanced budget” argument makes for nice political rhetoric but what is the practical effect. What is the remedy? At what point in the process should a remedy be applied?

    Let’s take an easy example first. The gov’s requirement. When Rauner proposed an unbalanced budget do we want a legislator or better yet an aggrieved nonprofit to file a mandamus action forcing the gov to burn the unconstitutional budget books and do it over. Given the amorphous revenue projection process you’re going to have a lot of arguments about the magic balance point.

    Now on to the legislature. Do you want a court to jump in at the first allegation of an unbalanced. Remember the GOP used the harangue for the first bill, which technically wasn’t an unbalanced budget. Do you wait until the last budget bill is enrolled?

    Frankly, I would be shocked if the courts got into the business of determining balanced budgets. Which means that the folks charged with the duty will have to do it themselves.


  42. - Timmeh - Wednesday, Jul 29, 15 @ 12:17 am:

    ==openly acknowledged their budget was unbalanced==
    They also openly acknowledged that it was a starting point and knew it was not going to be signed into law. How many Republicans have been saying “Cut First!”? Here you go.


  43. - burbanite - Wednesday, Jul 29, 15 @ 7:31 am:

    So it is better to argue a falsehood, than acknowledge a truth?


  44. - Nickname #2 - Wednesday, Jul 29, 15 @ 8:38 am:

    After ignoring the savings from the unconstitutional pension reform, what are the differences between spending levels between the budget proposed by the GA and the Governor? Both budgets are billions out of balance, so my question is how minor/major are the differences in spending on different programs? Has anyone seen a direct comparison anywhere?


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


* Reader comments closed for the holiday weekend
* Sen. Connelly concedes
* Question of the day
* GOMB: State needs another $3+ billion a year to stay even
* Raoul announces transition committee
* The Democrats' vote-by-mail juggernaut
* Why the Firearms Restraining Order Act is so important
* Pension benefits are not cut in the abstract
* The way forward
* Yes, something can be done
* Monday's heroes
* *** LIVE COVERAGE ***
* Yesterday's stories

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