LOOP — Saying, "You have to do your job, then you get paid," Gov. Pat Quinn cut off salaries to the General Assembly until legislators solve the state's pension crisis.
"In this budget, there should be no paychecks for legislators until they get the job done on pension reform," Quinn said Wednesday in a news conference at the Thompson Center.
"Pension reform is the most critical job for all of us in public office. I cannot in good conscience approve legislation that provides paychecks to legislators who are not doing their job for the taxpayers."
Explaining that "this is an emergency that demands their undivided attention," Quinn said the best way to get that attention was to hit the General Assembly in the pocketbook. He used a line-item veto in a final state budget bill to suspend all legislative salaries and stipends.
Quinn said he too would decline his salary until "comprehensive public pension reform" is achieved.
"I'm not gonna sign a bill that's incomplete," Quinn said. "We're not gonna do something that's just for show biz."
Quinn said the state's unfunded pension liability is $100 billion, and the state's obligation was eating into funds required for education, public safety and services.
"This is an emergency. This is a crisis. This requires the full attention of those who were elected to the General Assembly," Quinn added. "They must have that alarm bell ringing in their ears, and the best way to do that is hit them in the wallet."
House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) issued a statement saying he has "been working for many months to pass real, comprehensive pension reform.
"During the first Democratic Caucus of this General Assembly, I admonished our members that doing nothing or passing only a half measure on pension reform was not an option. This issue must be solved in order to put Illinois on a more secure financial path.
"The governor’s decision follows my efforts and I understand his frustration," Madigan added. "I am hopeful his strategy works."
Quinn decried the "legislative inertia, delays and excuses" legislators had used to explain the failure to act, especially over the last two years. He pointed out he had called the assembly back for special sessions and had seen another deadline pass Tuesday without action.
"When Commonwealth Edison sets a deadline for the Legislature, they hop to it," he said. "When the National Rifle Association sets a deadline for the Legislature, they're right on it.
"I think the taxpayers are on my side here," Quinn said. "I think the people agree with me. They shouldn't be paid until they get the job done.
"For the legislators, when they lose their pay, maybe it's a crisis for them and they'll wake up and understand how important this is."
Lawmaker could vote to restore their pay, but it would require a vote of at least 3/5 of members of both houses to override Quinn's amendatory veto.
Quinn said he had tried every other tactic to rouse the General Assembly.
"Admittedly, this is a drastic measure," he said. "But I think it's absolutely necessary."