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Madigan and Cullerton can't come together on pension, unite on paying themselves

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Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and Illinois Senate President John Cullerton are marching into Cook County Circuit Court today to stand up for Illinois lawmakers and to stand up for themselves. The lawsuit is meant to restore lawmakers pay that was eliminated by Governor Pat Quinn in a line-item veto. The move by Governor Quinn was a popular and "populist" move that resonated with public.

When Governor Quinn first announced the line-item veto of withholding lawmakers pay, Speaker Madigan said in a statement that "The governor's decision follows my efforts, and I understand his frustration. I am hopeful his strategy works."

Now, Speaker Madigan is participating in a lawsuit to restore the pay in time for the next paycheck that would be due lawmakers on Aug. 1. Madigan is taking the action with his friend, President Cullerton. The irony in this case is that was brought on exactly because the two men could not agree on an issue.

Pension reform.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and Illinois Senate President John Cullerton failed to come together on the issue of which path to take on the issue of "pension reform." Competing bills have passed in the House and Senate. The house bill supported by Madigan, Senate Bill 1, passed the House on a bipartisan 62-51 vote, with two representatives voting “present.” Senate President John Cullerton’s push for pension reform through Senate Bill 2404, which has the support of We Are One Illinois, which is coalition representing retired teachers, police officers, nurses, child protective workers and other public servants.

Madigan claims his bill saves enough money to resolve the pension problem for good. Cullerton's bill doesn't save as near as much, but its backers claims it passes constitutional muster and that Madigan's bill does not. Governor Quinn has openly supported the Madigan pension package and “has been relentlessly working the phones” Brooke Anderson, press secretary for Governor Quinn said at the time. "As Governor Quinn has made clear for almost two years now, he will not approve any plan that is not comprehensive and that does not erase the [$97 billion] unfunded liability over the next 30 years."

Speaker Madigan’s plan, which he says would save the most money, passed the House in early May with 62 votes but failed in the Senate with just 16 votes. Cullerton’s union-backed plan, which he says is the more likely to be "constitutional," received a veto-proof 40 votes in the Senate but has never been voted on in the House as Madigan has refused to bring that bill to the floor.

Now the legislative priority is the pay of lawmakers, which Madigan and Cullerton said was "purely political and an unconstitutional attempt to coerce the legislature to comply with his demands."

Madigan and Cullerton went on to say that Quinn's action "threatens the independence of each branch of government. The Illinois Constitution protects the salaries of members of the judiciary, the legislature, and the executive branch. These provisions were added to safeguard the people from a weakened judiciary, to ensure the legislature could not diminish the power of the executive, and to prohibit the governor from running roughshod over the legislature."

Madigan and Cullerton addressed the issue of a veto override of the action, saying that it would "severely and irrevocably compromise the independence of the legislature and set a very dangerous precedent. Just as it would be inappropriate for the General Assembly to refuse to appropriate a constitutional officer’s salary simply because we disagree with his or her philosophy, it is no less offensive for the Governor to attempt to withhold legislators’ salaries because they have not complied with his demand for action on a particular issue."

Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka issued a statement "We’re reviewing the suit and will hold off on further comment. But as she noted last week, the Comptroller welcomes additional guidance from the Court."

Bill Daley, who just yesterday announced he is tearing the "exploratory" label from his campaign for governor, once again took the opportunity to take a shot at the governor. Calling it a "side show," Daley went on to say that Governor Quinn is "doing nothing to end the pension mess that is hurting our school kids and stands in the way of creating jobs. The Governor’s action is likely unconstitutional and has not gotten us any closer to fixing the pension problem."

Republican candidate for governor, Bruce Rauner, took a similar tone to Daley, saying that Springfield is "dysfunctional" and that "instead of showing leadership and solving the pension crisis, the politicians running Springfield are once again pointing fingers at each other and are afraid to take on the government union bosses. This is why we need to shake Springfield to its core."

The two leaders are using state money to pay the lawyers in the lawsuit. "It's filed in their official capacities so state funds are allowed" said a Cullerton spokesperson.

Send John Presta an email and your story ideas or suggestions, johnpresta@att.net.

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. John is an unpaid volunteer and social media advisor at Robin Kelly for Congress.

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