Paycheck power challenged in Illinois

Illinois lawmakers says it's an abuse of power. Gov. Pat Quinn calls it a necessary step to end the pension crisis.

Thursday marks the first day Illinois lawmakers will not receive a paycheck,

a decision Gov. Quinn made

in early July. Quinn canceled the $67,836 base pay for Illinoisâ?? 177 legislators, and said lawmakers should not be paid until they â??do their jobs,â?? according to


On Tuesday, Illinoisâ?? top Democratic legislators, House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, filed a lawsuit against Gov. Pat Quinn challenging his line-item veto on lawmakers salaries. It focuses on the separation of powers.

â??If unchecked, any governor could attempt to employ the same tactic to threaten the legislature, the judiciary, or another constitutional officer to accomplish his or her own personal agenda,â?? the Democratic leaders said in their letter. â??In this case, the Governor is seeking changes to the pension system, but next time it could be tax policy, gun control, or education reform. The possibilities are endless.â??

Democratic Senator John Sullivan isn't pleased.

"Trying to force somebody to agree with your reasoning by keeping their pay from them is just setting a horrible precedence," Sen. Sullivan said.

Neither is Republican Representative Norine Hammond.

"It's also disturbing that the governor has said this is his top priority but he has chosen not to attend any of the committee meetings even though he has been invited. You know ... what is the message that that sends," Rep. Hammond said.

Both Illinois legislators say that the pay cut that went into effect Thursday at Governor Pat Quinn's request is illegal.

"If a governor does not get what he or she wants then does that give them the ability to veto the salaries until they vote whatever way that particular governor wants," Rep. Hammond said. "Both the leader of the House and the leader of the Senate has filed a lawsuit. Basically the content of that lawsuit says is that the action that the governor took was unconstitutional which I believe that it is."

Many political experts believe the courts will overturn Quinn's mandate. The question is when.

"Lawmakers will get their full $67,000 and some change salaries plus all the other enhances, but the question is when? Do they get it now? Do they get it when pension reform is done or do they get it all the way in next June when the fiscal year actually ends," Political Expert Ben Yount of said.

Legislators have since turned to Illinoisâ?? comptroller for action. IllinoisWatchdog reports Judy Baar Topinka said last week she could not spend money that has been cut from the budget.

The paycheck lawsuit will be heard in Chicago, but a time frame for a judge's ruling is uncertain.