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Appeals Court Denies Quinn’s Latest Bid To Block Lawmakers’ Pay

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Gov. Pat Quinn (Credit: CBS)

Gov. Pat Quinn (Credit: CBS)

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Updated 09/27/13 – 4:38 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – Gov. Pat Quinn lost another round in his bid to block lawmakers’ paychecks until they send him a pension reform plan, when the Illinois Appellate Court denied his request to stop legislators from getting paid.

That means paychecks will continue going out to lawmakers, as Illinois State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka already had begun processing checks and direct deposits.

Earlier in the day, a Cook County judge denied Quinn’s request to delay his ruling that the state immediately issue two months of back pay to lawmakers, after the judge ruled Thursday that Quinn violated the Illinois Constitution when he used his veto power to withhold lawmakers’ paychecks beginning in August.

Quinn has said legislators should not be paid until they come up with a fix for the state’s $100 billion pension shortfall. He also has refused to take his own pay.

On Friday, Cook County Judge Neil Cohen refused Quinn’s request to block lawmakers’ pay while he appeals the case to the Illinois Appellate Court.

“I understand where his heart is, but that’s politics. That’s not the law,” Cohen said during his ruling. “The Governor violated the Constitution. He had no right to do that, despite benevolent intent.”

Cohen already had ordered Illinois State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka to issue pay that lawmakers have missed since the governor’s veto in July.

After Cohen turned him down, the governor filed an emergency request with the Appellate Court, seeking to block those paychecks, but the court refused.

Earlier, Quinn had expressed confidence a higher court would ultimately rule in his favor.

“In the meantime, I think legislators need to work with me to get a bill on my desk that we can say reforms the whole public pension system, and erases this liability,” Quinn said. “I said to legislators in the beginning of July that they should have no pay, until they get a pension reform accomplished for the taxpayers of Illinois, who have been paying up to now.”

Topinka, a Republican who controls the state’s purse strings, said her office began processing lawmakers’ pay on Thursday.

“We had two options here. Either the legislature was going to override the governor’s veto, and reinstitute their appropriation, or we would comply with the judge’s order. We have the judge’s order,” Topinka said.

She said there’s no need to worry where the state will get the money.

“The money is always there. It’s not as though the state does not have any money to back this up, but at the same time, if it’s not appropriated, it will probably be taken from other funds, and other monies that are there,” Topinka said. “But the point is we will issue their checks.”

Topinka said she will immediately issue monthly paychecks for August and September. October checks are due at the beginning of next week.

“They’re going to have a little windfall,” Topinka said.

Most lawmakers have signed up for direct deposit, which was being processed Friday morning. Direct deposit for October pay also will go out by 3 p.m. Friday.

Only 21 lawmakers get paper checks. August and September checks should go out Friday, with October checks going out next week.

Lawmakers’ base salary is approximately $67,000 a year. Those who serve in leadership positions, or who chair committees also get bonuses.

House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton filed a lawsuit challenging the governor’s veto after lawmakers’ pay was halted, saying the move violated the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches. They also pointed to a measure in the Illinois Constitution that prevents their salary from being changed during their current term in office.

Quinn had argued that provision only prevented lawmakers from giving themselves pay raises during their current term, but allowed pay cuts.

–CBS 2 Political Producer Ed Marshall contributed to this report.

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