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Quinn Says Lawmaker Salaries Veto is Constitutional

Quinn Says Lawmaker Salaries Veto is Constitutional

Governor Pat Quinn flashes his veto of lawmaker salaries.

Governor Pat Quinn flashes his veto of lawmaker salaries.

(Chicago) – Governor Pat Quinn has swatted away questions over the constitutionality of his veto of lawmaker salaries.

Quinn’s spokesperson, Brooke Anderson, last night told The Illinois Observer in an e-mail, “Article IV, Section 9(d) of the Illinois Constitution authorizes the Governor to “reduce or veto any item of appropriations in a bill presented to him. Quinn v. Donnewald confirms that such authority extends to the line item veto of the salaries of State officials, including legislators.

“Like other State expenditures, the payment of the General Assembly is subject to appropriation. The governor has a constitutional right to apply his line-item veto to appropriation bills, and that’s exactly what he did today.”

GOP Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka has raised questions about the constitutionality of Quinn’s veto and now has her lawyers reviewing the law before deciding whether she will withhold lawmakers’ pay checks.

Additionally, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, a potential challenger to Quinn in the 2014, is also reviewing whether the governor overstepped his constitutional authority.

A government affairs lawyer, who lobbies in Springfield, told The Illinois Observer, “Quinn likely overstepped his constitutional authority with this veto.”

The attorney, who cited the 2003 case Jorgensen v. Blagojevich in which then Governor Rod Blagojevich vetoed pay raises for Illinois judges and the Illinois Supreme Court later ruled that the governor’s action was unconstitutional, pointed to a key passage of the opinion written by Justice Philip Rarick, warning against “coercive influence” of one branch of government against another.

Here’s a key passage of Rarick’s opinion in the Blagojevich case:

Avoiding the concentration of governmental powers in the same person or political body was seen by the founding fathers as essential to freedom and liberty. Preventing the excessive concentration of authority by one branch is why the system of mutual checks and balances by and among the three branches of government was incorporated into the structure of our government. 3 C. Antieau, Modern Constitutional Law 376-77 (2d ed. 1997). For checks and balances to work properly in protecting individual liberty, each of the three branches of government must be kept free from the control or coercive influence of the other branches. Insuring the independence of the respective branches of government is the real thrust of the separation of powers doctrine. People ex rel. Baricevic v. Wharton, 136 Ill. 2d 423, 432 (1990).

Whatever the constitutionality of the veto, the point may be moot because Quinn will have public opinion solidly behind him on this one. And that’s what matters. Public opinion.

Finally, if lawmakers approve a pension reform bill in the next few weeks, Quinn will be able to convincingly claim to – voters – that it was his veto of their pay checks that pushed them to act.

And voters will believe him.


Twitter @DavidOrmsby

(*Note to Political Insiders: The Illinois Observer also offers our exclusive, subscriber-only e-newsletter – The Insider – to, well, Illinois political insiders. Each Tuesday and Friday at 6:00 a.m. The Insider, whose Consulting Editor is Capitol Fax Publisher Rich Miller, arrives in e-mail boxes with the choicest Illinois, Cook County, and Chicago political gossip, insider information, and news tips. For more information and a free, 4-week trial subscription to The Insider, please go here).

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About David Ormsby

David, a Huffington Post blogger and an ex-Press Secretary of the Illinois Democratic Party, is a public relations strategist in Illinois.

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