Governor Pat Quinn's once brilliant "populist" move of cutting the pay of lawmakers as punishment for not passing "pension reform," has misfired. What has misfired is the manner in which "overplayed" a winning hand. Quinn had issued a line-item veto of House Bill 214 in early July of this year, to suspend the pay of Illinois state legislators.
That popular "populist" action by Governor Pat Quinn gained him national acclaim and resonated with the voters of Illinois. But yesterday, a Cook County District judge ruled that the line-item veto stopping the paychecks of lawmakers was unconstitutional.
In his ruling, Judge Neil H. Cohen said that Governor Quinn's line-item veto of House Bill 214 violated Article IV, Section 11 of the Illinois Constitution and therefore was "void ab initio and of no legal effect." State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka was ordered to cut checks to the lawmakers effective immediately. That is just what Comptroller Topinka did, issuing checks either by paper or electronically.
However, instead of counting the victory and his point made, Governor Pat Quinn may well negate the entire "good will" created by the situation and turn it into a big negative. Governor Quinn issued a statement. "I respectfully disagree with the judge’s decision. On behalf of Illinois taxpayers, I intend to appeal the decision and seek a court stay that would prevent any legislative paychecks from being issued until this case is considered by a higher court."
In Governor Quinn's first appeal for a stay order pending an appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court. Judge Cohen rejected Quinn's request for a stay. Later, the Illinois Appellate Court also rejected Quinn's appeal to grant a stay, and essentially stop Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka from issuing three months in paychecks to lawmakers: August and September checks have been issued, and on Tuesday, the October checks will go out.
Now the Governor will have to wait for the Illinois Supreme Court to rule, but by that point the the purpose of the line-item veto could be moot.
"Pension reform" may be passed by that point.
State Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-13), who chairman of a 10-member special legislative panel on the state's pension issue, has said all along that the committee's work was unaffected by the salary issue and that the committee was moving closer to a proposal. Sen. Raoul said, "I think it's ill-advised. In a larger picture, in order to get things done, to get things done on behalf of the taxpayers, the governor and the legislature have to work together and have got to avoid being divisive."
Governor Quinn continued to defend his position. "This case is about far more than just the Governor’s constitutional authority to suspend the appropriations for legislative paychecks. The reason I suspended legislative paychecks in the first place – and refused to accept my own – is because Illinois taxpayers can’t afford an endless cycle of promises, excuses, delays and inertia on the most critical challenge of our time."
"Illinois’ pension crisis is costing taxpayers millions of dollars a day; robbing our children of the education and public safety services they desperately need; and holding our economy back from real recovery. I will not accept a paycheck until a comprehensive pension reform bill is on my desk, and neither should legislators. Nobody in Springfield should get paid until the pension reform job gets done," said Governor Quinn.
Now, the words are ringing hollow as Governor Quinn clings to his line-item veto. What Quinn wanted was for the state lawmakers to vote for an override of his veto. Politically, this is an embarrassment for Governor pat Quinn who was on a roll politically.
That's what happens when one overplays a "great hand."
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John is the author of an award-winning book, the 2010 Winner of the USA National Best Book award for African American studies, published by The Elevator Group, Mr. and Mrs. Grassroots. Also available an eBook on Amazon. John is also a member of the Society of Midland Authors and is a book reviewer of political books for the New York Journal of Books. John has volunteered for many political campaigns.