Topinka: No Checks For Lawmakers

Jul 26, 2013

Judy Baar Topinka

Illinois lawmakers will not get their paychecks for the month of August. Governor Pat Quinn took the unusual step earlier this month of cutting lawmakers’ pay from the state budget.

He says they won’t get paid until they pass a pension overhaul.

Judy Baar Topinka is Illinois’ comptroller. Her office sends out those paychecks. She says she’s not sure Quinn’s veto is legal - so she asked some lawyers for advice.

"Given the serious precedent that is being created, and I do stress that, because, I think, we’re on some really dangerous ground here, I look forward to receiving additional guidance from the judicial branch," Topinka said.

That judicial branch guidance would require someone to sue - something that hasn’t been done yet and could be seen as politically unpopular. Topinka says while legally she might not have a choice in the matter - personally - she thinks stopping lawmakers’ pay makes the state look, quote, “ridiculous.”

Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka made the following statement Thursday after a legal review of the Governor's Amendatory Veto of legislative salaries:

"After the Governor used his Amendatory Veto to remove the budget line items for lawmaker salaries, I asked my staff to conduct a legal review and determine the appropriate course of action. That review included discussions with the Governor's legal staff, Legislative legal staffs and the Attorney General's Office. While there is conflicting opinion on this matter, I believe the case of AFSCME vs. Netsch provides the most pertinent guidance. In that case, the court ruled that the Comptroller could not pay state employees without an appropriation.

"This situation is different in that it involves two, co-equal branches of government, and that distinction may well be considered by the Court down the line. But at this point in time, the Attorney General has advised that these payments cannot be made without an appropriation or court order.

"It is my deep hope that this matter is resolved expeditiously either by legislative action or court intervention. Given the serious precedent that is being created, I look forward to receiving additional guidance from the judicial branch.

"By way of Editorial comment, let me be clear: this is no way to run government. Threats, blackmail and inertia may be good theater, but it makes us look ridiculous and takes away from our ability to get things done. It is time for leaders to lead."

Illinois Public Radio's Tony Arnold contributed to this report.