Illinois lawmakers' suspended pay fight heads to court

August 6, 2013 (CHICAGO)

The only surprise at the Daley Center was the appearance by Governor Pat Quinn, the lead defendant in the case, who stood behind his June decision to veto 177 General Assembly paychecks.

"I'm a named defendant and I want to defend the taxpayers of Illinois in this matter," said Gov. Pat Quinn.

In court, Judge Neil Cohen told lawyers for House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton to file for an injunction by August 16th, Quinn's lawyers must respond in two weeks. The Madigan/Cullerton team must reply by September 10 before oral arguments on the 18th.

The governor sat watching from a front row seat, knowing a court ruling was impossible by September 1, the next scheduled lawmaker payday.

"The best way to settle the case in this matter is for the legislature to start moving on pension reform," said Gov. Quinn.

"We've made fairly good progress as to keeping the discussions going," said State Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Hyde Park).

Sen. Kwame Raoul-- who hasn't ruled out running against Quinn in next year's democratic primary-- chairs the General Assembly's bi-partisan conference committee on pensions. He says his team should be finished writing a compromise reform bill by September.

"We have a natural pressure upon us that has nothing to do with the Governor's, what I believe is illegal, amendatory veto," said Sen. Raoul.

Quinn's declared primary opponent-- former U.S. Commerce Secretary Bill Daley-- called the governor's courthouse appearance on Tuesday "a sideshow."

"He refuses to show up at the pension committee, but he'll show up for the TV cameras," said Bill Daley.

The governor was unapologetic.

"The most important thing we should always keep in mind is that the pension liability is $100 billion," said Gov. Quinn.

The governor said as soon as lawmakers pass a comprehensive pension reform, the pay freeze will end and the court case will become moot. But constitutional lawyers say the governor cannot simply undo his veto.

It will take action by either the General Assembly to override the freeze, or the court system would have to act.

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