Illinois Governor Pat Quinn was sued by leaders of the state legislature for vetoing lawmakers’ pay until a public-pension funding shortfall is resolved.
Illinois has almost $100 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, the largest such gap of any U.S. state. Using a line-item veto, Quinn struck legislators’ pay from an appropriations bill this month after they went out of session for the third time in 11 months without resolving the issue.
Senate President John Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan who, like the governor, are Democrats, said in a joint statement today that Quinn’s act was unconstitutional.
“The purpose of this lawsuit is to protect the independence of the legislature and preserve the separation of powers,” they said. “It is our hope that the court will remedy this constitutional violation and that future governors will not feel empowered to use such coercive tactics.”
The suit was filed in state court in Chicago. Also named as a defendant is Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, a Republican who lost the 2006 gubernatorial election to Democrat Rod Blagojevich.
Cullerton and Madigan, who represent Chicago-based districts, are seeking a court order either compelling Baar Topinka to pay their more than $13 million in salaries in accordance with another part of the appropriations bill or declaring Quinn’s veto unconstitutional.
Quinn said in a statement that the lawsuit is “just plain wrong” and his veto is valid under the Illinois Constitution.
“If legislators had put forth the same effort to draw up a pension reform agreement that they did in crafting this lawsuit, pension reform could have been done by now,” he said.
The case is Cullerton v. Quinn, 13-CH-17921, Cook County Circuit Court, Chancery Division (Chicago).