Illinois lawmakers sue over delayed paychecks

Saturday, December 3, 2016
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Some Illinois lawmakers say Republican Comptroller Leslie Munger's delay in issuing their paychecks is unconstitutional.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Illinois General Assembly has adjourned for the year without a balanced budget and without voting to override a veto of a pension reform bill for Chicago Public School teachers.

But on Friday, some Illinois Democratic lawmakers filed a lawsuit to get paid. They say Republican Comptroller Leslie Munger's delay in issuing their paychecks is unconstitutional.

With Illinois in dire fiscal straits, Comptroller Munger put lawmakers at the end of the line for pay so she could focus on struggling social services agencies. Now, three and a half weeks after the election, the politicians have gone to court to get their money:

"Lawmakers are currently owed six months of salary," said State Rep. Emanuel "Chris" Welch, D-Westchester.

Welch is one of six Democratic lawmakers who filed the lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court. It contends that the executive branch of government - in this case the Comptroller's office led by Leslie Munger - is forbidden by the state constitution from holding undue influence over another branch, in this case the General Assembly.

"The constitution specifically says that we shall be paid at least monthly and this comptroller has specifically violated the Illinois constitution," Welch said.

"Good grief. I'm amazed," said Gov. Bruce Rauner. Still locked in a budget impasse with the General Assembly, he expressed his disbelief that the controlling Democrats would file such a lawsuit.

"When we don't have a budget, when we don't have any money and legislators are insisting that even though they're not doing their jobs passing budgets and reforms they want to get paid.," Rauner said.

Rauner's appointed Comptroller Munger delayed lawmaker paychecks last summer. She lost her re-election bid to Democrat Susana Mendoza, who will take over the office on Monday.

"How cowardly that they refused to challenge any action while I was in office and now they are going to court when there will be a new administration taking office on Monday led by one of their own," Munger said.

Welch said he understands the political optics, but insists the court action is about the law and the separation of powers in Illinois.

"What we're addressing in this lawsuit are constitutional issues. And this is about preserving and protecting our constitution," Welch said.

In a statement, Comptroller-elect Mendoza says when she takes office on Monday, she will continue to delay lawmaker paychecks. But of course, because of the lawsuit, this is a matter now to be decided by the courts. In the past, judges have upheld the separation of powers argument.