CHICAGO (AP) — Arguments in a lawsuit over Gov. Pat Quinn's decision to cut legislators' pay will have a hearing in mid-September, meaning lawmakers could miss another paycheck if they don't agree on a solution for Illinois' pension crisis.
Cook County Circuit Judge Neil H. Cohen said Tuesday oral arguments will be presented Sept. 18 for the lawsuit filed by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton. They're trying to force Quinn and Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka to issue paychecks.
Last month, Quinn cut $13.8 million for legislators' pay from the state budget after threatening there'd be consequences if they didn't act on pensions.
The lawsuit asks the court to decide if Quinn's line-item veto really did fully eliminate lawmakers' salaries. If not, the leaders argue, Topinka should be required to pay those salaries "based on the plain language of the appropriations bill and on Illinois law."
As an alternative, if the court upholds Quinn's amendatory veto, the suit asks the court to issue a declaration that Quinn's action violated the state constitution and to issue an injunction ordering Topinka to pay lawmakers' salaries "to remedy that constitutional violation."
Topinka, who is named as a defendant in the suit, has said she had no choice but to withhold lawmaker paychecks, citing a previous court case.
Quinn attended Tuesday's hearing and said afterward that his move was constitutional and the outcome of the lawsuit would be a "landmark" case.
Lawmakers could override Quinn's veto with a three-fifths vote in both chambers. But Quinn, a Chicago Democrat, said after the court hearing that he'd prefer to see them address the state's nearly $100 billion unfunded pension liability.
"The best way to settle the case in this matter is for the Legislature to start moving on pension reform," Quinn said.
Base pay for lawmakers is $67,836, though many earn more through stipends from serving in leadership posts or on committees.