Legal questions for cutting lawmakers' pay

Jul 10, 2013

Legal questions surround Governor Pat Quinn's bold move Wednesday to strike legislators' salaries out of the state budget.  It's an unprecedented one --- though somewhat similar to an action taken by Quinn's predecessor, Rod Blagojevich.  IPR’s Amanda Vinicky has more:

Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka actually signs the paychecks.  And shortly after Quinn's budget veto, Topinka called for a legal review.  In a statement, she noted a section of the State Constitution that says General Assembly members' salaries shall not be changed mid-term.  Eliminating their salaries entirely could be considered a major change.  Topinka says she wants an answer before she's due to send out the next set of checks, August 1.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office says is taking an informal look at various  - and at times conflicting - provisions of state law. Her spokeswoman, Natalie Bauer:

"Based on our initial review, the Governor's actions raise a series of constitutional and procedural issues that have never been resolved by the Courts at this point."

A potentially relevant precedent may be when, in 2003, former Governor Blagojevich tried - and failed - to strip legislators and judges of their pay raises.  The state Supreme Court cited a different part of the Constitution that says judicial salaries can't be reduced midterm.