It’s going to be a gloomy day for lawmakers Thursday.
That’s the day they were supposed to be paid for their work during July. Now, it looks like they’ll be getting bupkis.
Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka said last week she can’t issue checks when there’s no appropriation in the state budget to cover them. And thanks to Gov. Pat Quinn’s action earlier this month, there’s no appropriation to pay lawmaker salaries. He says they don’t deserve to get paid until they come up with a pension reform plan.
As Topinka pointed out, there are basically only two ways for lawmakers to get their money. One is for the General Assembly to vote to restore the money. As of now, though, they aren’t scheduled to return until October. They could come back earlier, but what an awful picture that would present if they came back to restore their salaries before they’ve finished work on pension reform.
The other option is for a legislator to go to court and say Quinn violated the Constitution by cutting their salaries. It would seem someone would win that lawsuit, but again what an awful picture it would present.
Before you hold a tag sale for the General Assembly, remember lawmaker is officially a part-time job. Many, although not all, lawmakers have other income. Those who don’t can always line up a paper route or something.
Ironic headline of the week
Courtesy of a news release from Gov. Quinn’s office:
“Governor Quinn Signs Laws to Protect Illinois Workers’ Paychecks,” the headline said. The release went on to detail several bills Quinn signed that are designed to correct payroll abuses that sometimes occur in the construction industry.
Of course, this is the same governor who whacked money out of the state budget to pay lawmakers as punishment for them not passing pension reform.
Maybe Quinn was looking at it in terms of that old joke about the difference between a worker and an employee.
She said it
n “I’m not a lawyer and I didn’t play one on TV.” Topinka, just before lambasting Quinn for cutting lawmaker salary money from the budget.
n “He said do not pay him, so he’s not getting paid. If anybody else wants to volunteer not to get paid, we won’t pay them either. Fine.” Topinka on Quinn’s decision to forego his paycheck until pension reform passes and her willingness to extend that to all takers.
n “I’ve never been one who liked a meat ax approach to things.” Topinka expressing her support for a pension reform plan that gives workers a choice in benefit changes.
Daley stunt double?
Former White House chief of staff Bill Daley, the Democrat who on Tuesday filed the paperwork formally announcing his run for governor next year, offered his idea for advancing pension reform last week.
He said Quinn should force lawmakers into the Executive Mansion and keep them there for around-the-clock negotiations until a deal is reached.
“No one leaves until they come to a resolution,” Daley was quoted at a Chicago appearance.
Well, OK, but hasn’t Daley accused Quinn of governing by stunt? Care to guess how this idea would have been described had Quinn come up with it?
Has Quinn given up on special sessions?
During an appearance in Chicago last week, reporters gave it their all suggesting to the governor he could call another special session on pensions when lawmakers are in town for the Illinois State Fair in August.
Yeah, he said, that would be an “ideal” time to do pension reform. But what about calling a special session just for pensions?
Was Quinn saying his answer was a yes to a special session?
“It could be,” he said.
That’s a pretty tepid response.
Doug Finke covers state government for The State Journal-Register and GateHouse Media from the Capitol in Sprinngfield. He can be reached at (217) 788-1527. Follow him at twitter.com/DougFinkeSJR.