Topinka Cautions Against "Government By Blackmail"

Sep 27, 2013

A judge says Illinois Governor Pat Quinn exceeded his power when he vetoed lawmaker salaries this summer. The judge ordered members of the Illinois House and Senate get their back pay with interest. 

Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka
 Quinn says he was essentially penalizing lawmakers for failing to agree on how to deal with Illinois' pension problem. The state retirement funds are short by nearly $100 billion. The speaker of the House and Senate president sued, accusing Quinn of overstepping his powers, and a Cook County trial judge agreed. The Illinois Constitution says legislative salaries can't be changed while they're in office -- and the judge says Quinn's move to zero their pay from the budget was unconstitutional. Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka says she's ordering her staff to begin processing the checks immediately.  She cautioned against future governors or lawmakers using "government by blackmail." 

"The precedent here is a little bit of game-playing and gamesmanship. Now you have this precedent of using dollars back and forth (paychecks if you will) to get some kind of a solution to a favored project, a program, or whatever you are looking for. That's not the way you want to run a state." -Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka

 Quinn says he intends to appeal the ruling. A hearing on that is set for this morning. Illinois Public Radio's Brian Mackey contributed to this report.