CHICAGO -- Gov. Pat Quinn attempted to suspend Illinois lawmakers’ pay Wednesday, following through on his warning of consequences if they failed to end the state’s nearly $100 billion pension crisis, the worst of any state nationwide.
The Chicago Democrat said he would use his line-item veto power in a budget bill that’s on his desk, also vowing to not accept a salary himself until a compromise has been agreed. Lawmakers have to approve his changes.
“In this budget, there should be no paychecks for legislators until they get the job done on pension reform,” Quinn said in a statement. “Pension reform is the most critical job for all of us in public office. I cannot in good conscience approve legislation that provides paychecks to legislators who are not doing their job for the taxpayers.”
The bill on Quinn’s desk gives the Illinois comptroller the ability to issue paychecks to state employees.
Lawmakers in the General Assembly make nearly $68,000 a year. Some make additional stipends for leadership positions.
Illinois has nearly $100 billion in unfunded pension liability because lawmakers either skipped or shorted payments to the state’s five retirement systems for decades. Inaction on solving the problem has led to repeated credit rating downgrades as well as a national embarrassment.
Quinn has made pensions his top issue for nearly two years and set numerous hard deadlines, including two special sessions, for lawmakers. But none have produced any results. Members of a bipartisan panel charged with finding a compromise blew past another deadline Tuesday. Quinn had warned there would be consequences, although he had not outlined what he planned to do.
“This is an emergency. The taxpayers of Illinois are waiting and there is no excuse for further legislative delay,” Quinn said Wednesday. “The taxpayers cannot afford an endless cycle of delays, excuses and more delays.”