Ill. Gov. Suspends Lawmakers' Pay Amid Pension Crisis

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said he was suspending the pay of state lawmakers and himself after they failed to fix the state's pension reform crisis by a deadline he had given.

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    Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said Wednesday he will suspend state lawmakers' pay after they missed the Tuesday deadline to deliver state pension reform.

    Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announced Wednesday he will use his veto power to suspend state lawmakers' pay after they missed his deadline to deliver pension reform.

    "This is an emergency," Quinn said. "This is a crisis. This requires the full attention of those who were elected to the General Assembly."

    Quinn said he informed the comptroller of his intentions to suspend all legislative salaries and stipends for the General Assembly and for himself until the reform is on his desk.

    He described the pay halt as a wake-up call for those who have failed for two years to take action on the state's pension crisis. The yearly base pay for lawmakers is $67,836. Stipends range between $10,000 and $27,000.

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    After the House and Senate approved the procedural steps Wednesday afternoon, the four leaders of the General Assembly announced their picks for the panel that will try to forge a compromise to fix the pension programs, which have saddled the state with $97 billion in debt.

    "I think the only way to truly get the attention of the legislators, to wake them up, is to address their compensation," Quinn said, "because taxpayers have had to pay up until now, all the time. Every time they've blown a deadline, the taxpayers paid. Now it's time for the legislature to understand that they'll have to pay."

    House Speaker Michael Madigan said he understands Quinn's frustration and hopes the strategy works.

    "I have been working for many months to pass real, comprehensive pension reform," Madigan said. "During the first Democratic Caucus of this General Assembly, I admonished our members that doing nothing or passing only a half measure on pension reform was not an option."

    Not everyone felt the same. Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Buffalo Grove) said the move does "nothing to move us toward a solution to our pension crisis and only serves as an unnecessary distraction."

    Quinn's gubernatorial opponents called it a stunt.

    "The pension crisis won’t be solved by political stunts," Bruce Rauner said. "It will be solved by bold leadership that’s willing to take on the powerful interests in Springfield."

    "It is obvious to everyone by now that this governor is long on press conferences and short on results," Bill Daley said. "This media sideshow doesn’t get things done, in fact it stands in the way."

    The move comes a day after the Illinois legislature handily overrode Gov. Pat Quinn's amendatory veto to the concealed-carry bill.

    Quinn warned this week there would be consequences if legislators didn't come up with a pension reform package by his Tuesday deadline. Up until Wednesday Quinn hadn't signed the part of the budget allowing the state comptroller to issue paychecks to state employees.

    "The taxpayers are entitled to public pension reform that stems the outflow of taxpayer money day after day after day that's happening," Quinn said Monday. "It's time for the General Assembly to put a pension reform bill on my desk. They have had one excuse after another for the last two years."

    "There will be consequences," Quinn warned, though he didn't offer details at the time.

    He said last month the state's pension shortfall will grow at about $5 million a day, a slower pace than the $17 million estimated for the last fiscal year. The new year began July 1.

    "It's important that our budget reflect what the people of Illinois want," Quinn said. "The legislature has had many opportunities in these two years to act. They have failed repeatedly."