The PJ Tatler

Illinois Comptroller To Lawmakers: I Can't Pay You

Unless Illinois legislators address the $97 billion dollar pension shortfall, they won’t be getting paid.  This initiative was set in motion by the state’s Democratic governor, Pat Quinn, to spur action on addressing the nation’s worst unfunded pension liability.  Yet, not all are happy with this decision.  Some in the Illinois legislature have called Quinn’s actions constitutionally questionable, but acknowledged that the ordinary residents of Illinois see  it as a way to get something done.  As a result of the governor’s actions, Illinois’ Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka says lawmakers’ paychecks have been halted.

Tammy Webber of the Associated Press wrote on July 24 that:

Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka said Thursday that she has no choice but to withhold lawmakers’ paychecks, citing a precedent-setting court case that bars her from paying state employees without a budget appropriation or court order.

Gov. Pat Quinn cut $13.8 million for legislators’ paychecks from a budget bill earlier this month, saying it wouldn’t be restored until lawmakers addressed the state’s $97 billion pension shortfall. He also suspended his own pay.

“It is my deep hope that this matter is resolved expeditiously,” either by a court or by lawmakers agreeing on a solution to the pension crisis, said Topinka, who undertook a legal review to determine if Quinn’s actions were constitutional. The Riverside Republican said Thursday that Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office advised her of the case that appears to bar her from acting

She called Quinn’s actions a “serious precedent that is being created,” and said the stalemate was “no way to run government.”


Quinn’s action “sets a very poor constitutional precedent for the executive branch to try to force legislative action through a payroll decision,” said state Rep. Mike Zalewski, a Riverside Democrat who sits on a bipartisan committee looking at possible pension solutions after the House and Senate deadlocked on an approach.

But Zalewski acknowledged that the governor’s action is resonating with average citizens “who just want to see us get something done.” He said the committee is probably a few weeks away from a resolution.

If there’s no action to address budgetary perils, you don’t get paid.  That’s bold.