CHICAGO — Gov. Pat Quinn lost two attempts Friday to stop legislators from being paid while he appeals a court ruling that determined it was unconstitutional of him to freeze the money in an effort to get lawmakers to solve Illinois’ pension fund problem.
The first payments since July went out Friday morning to lawmakers with direct deposit, but the state had held up paper checks for 21 lawmakers and bonus money for those in leadership positions until Cook County Judge Neil Cohen decided whether the money could be withheld pending the outcome of Quinn’s appeal.
Cohen said Quinn violated the Illinois Constitution by withholding the checks when he used his line-item veto to cut $13.1 million for lawmaker salaries from the state budget.
Quinn had said he was angry that legislators hadn’t found a fix for Illinois’ nearly $100 billion pension shortfall. He also refused to accept his own paychecks. But Cohen said during Friday’s hearing that Quinn had no right to violate the constitution, no matter how benevolent his intentions.
“I do understand where his heart is,” Cohen said. “But that’s politics. That’s not the law.”
Immediately after the ruling, Quinn’s attorneys filed an emergency request to the appellate court asking it to do what Cohen would not — stop any checks from going in the mail and halt any future paychecks while the appeal is being considered. But in a one-sentence order late Friday, Appellate Judge Maureen E. Connors denied Quinn’s motion.
A spokesman for Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka said the checks for the past two months already were being sent and the office had begun processing the next monthly check, scheduled to be paid Monday.
Quinn said that regardless of the ruling, he believes public opinion is on his side.
“If you don’t get (pension reform) done ... then they shouldn’t be paid,” he said. “I think that’s what the public feels. That’s what the taxpayers feel. That’s what I feel.”