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Local Editorials

Legislators want their paychecks? Get in line

Add Illinois legislators to the list of people to whom the state owes money. The public’s primary reaction should be this: Get in line.

Schools, social service agencies, vendors, and thousands of others are owed money because of the state’s lack of fiscal responsibility. It’s only fitting that those most responsible for our financial crisis – the legislative taxers and spenders – are inconvenienced right where taxpayers are being most inconvenienced: in their wallets.

House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton are suing Gov. Pat Quinn over Quinn’s decision to cut $13.8 million in legislative pay from the state budget, effectively eliminating legislators’ pay. Quinn also voluntarily gave up his pay.

Quinn’s move came after legislators failed to meet another one of the governor’s deadlines to resolve the state’s $100 billion pension crisis.

The circus surrounding Quinn’s line-item veto would be hilarious if it didn’t continue to cost Illinois about $17 million for each day that pension reform goes unresolved.

Is it grandstanding? Probably. Is it legal? We’re not sure. But at this point, Quinn, Madigan and Cullerton must find a solution to the pension crisis by any means necessary. If legislators lose some pay in the process, be assured that it is the absolute least of the public’s concern.

We would even like to see legislators vote to override the governor’s veto of their paychecks. But then, they wouldn’t want to do that when so many voters have no problem with the suspension of pay. Instead, legislative leaders filed a lawsuit – and sent the legal bill to the state’s taxpayers. What gall!

There is simply no responsibility for state lawmakers that is greater now than pension reform. Think about the most critical task you perform on your job. Suppose you decided to put it off for months or years? How long would you expect to continue collecting a paycheck?

Legislators have shown repeatedly that they cannot be shamed into action. If this dispute over the pay disruption moves legislators closer to pension reform, it’s not the worst thing that could happen.

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