Illinois Gov. Quinn tries to suspend state lawmakers' pay over pension crisis

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announces he will suspend lawmakers' pay


Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announced Wednesday that he's suspending legislators' pay -- and his own salary -- until there's a solution to the state's nearly $100 billion unfunded pension liability.

The Chicago Democrat cut $13.8 million for legislators' paychecks from a budget bill, using his line-item veto power. He said he cut was the "consequence" of lawmakers failing to hit the Tuesday deadline he set for a pension deal.

"In this budget, there should be no paychecks for legislators until they get the job done on pension reform," Quinn said in a written statement. "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."

A bipartisan legislative panel will continue working to reach a compromise on Illinois' $97 billion pension problem, he added.

The governor said he's tried everything to get lawmakers to address the pension problem and that the only way to get their attention is to hit them in the wallets.

The state unfunded pension liability is the worst of any state.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Democrat, said he understands Quinn's frustration and is "hopeful" the governor's strategy works.

Madigan also said he warned fellow House Democrats during the spring legislative session that "doing nothing or passing only a half-measure" was not an answer. He and Senate President John Cullerton passed separate pension plans that didn't get approval from the opposite chamber. The state's spring session goes from Jan. 10-May 31. Quinn called a special legislative session on June 19 and gave lawmakers a July 9 deadline to get a deal done. 

However, Cullerton is now accusing Quinn of "political grandstanding." He also said Quinn's move undermines the work of a panel trying to solve the pension crisis.

“Responsible leaders know that unworkable demands will only delay progress," added Quinn, also a Chicago Democrat.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner took a similar tone, calling Quinn's plan "another political stunt."

Rauner, a venture capitalist, also blamed "government union bosses" for the problem.

Members of the Illinois General Assembly make $67,836 a year, along with additional stipends for leadership positions - both of which were vetoed out Wednesday.

"This is an emergency, the taxpayers of Illinois are waiting and there is no excuse for further legislative delay," Quinn said. "The taxpayers cannot afford an endless cycle of delays, excuses and more delays."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.