07/11/2013 11:57 am ET

Pat Quinn Pay Freeze: Lawmakers React After Illinois Governor Pulls Harsh -- And Maybe Illegal -- Move

A day after Illinois Governor Pat Quinn said he would block state lawmakers from being paid in hopes of spurring them into action on pension reform, some are calling the legality of Quinn's maneuver into question.

As fed-up taxpayers cheered Quinn's Wednesday move — and angry lawmakers jeered it — State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka said she's investigating whether Quinn's cut is actually constitutional, the Associated Press reports.

A provision of the state constitution says changes in lawmakers' salary can't take effect during their current term, the Daily Herald reports. Quinn, citing an earlier court ruling that he says confirms his power to make the veto, has said he's not actually changing salaries, just witholding them.

The governor used his line-item veto power in a budget bill to effectively strike lawmakers' pay for August 1 from the budget (and vowing to not accept a salary himself) until a deal is reached to fix the state's worst-in-nation pension crisis.

Illinois State Rep. Mike Smiddy, a Hillsdale Democrat, told an NBC affiliate most lawmakers aren't surprised by Quinn's action since the governor had been promising for weeks there would be consequences to the legislature's inaction on pension reform.

"We kind of figured that this is what it was going to be from being in Springfield yesterday," Smiddy said, noting he disagrees with Quinn's actions.

In a statement, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill Daley called Quinn's action a "media sideshow" that "stands in the way" of action on pensions.

Even Quinn's fellow Chicago Democrat, Senate President John Cullerton, blasted the governor's decision, calling it "political grandstanding," the Sun-Times said.

State Sen. Matt Murphy, a Palatine Republican, said the move won't work if Quinn intends for it to motivate lawmakers.

“It’s somewhat irrational to say that the executive branch is going to tell a co-equal branch they’re not going to get paid,” Murphy said, also questioning the legality of the move. “It’s a stunt. He knows it’s a stunt.”

Illinois taxpayers, however, were more supportive of the pay freeze.

"I don't get paid unless I do my job," Sean Conners, who works in both Illinois and Iowa, told NBC. "So, what's right for us as citizens should be right for them, too. They might be mad about it but, oh well, do your job and you'll get paid."

Though Wednesday's move was meant to come after lawmakers' paychecks, Quinn might also be coming for lawmakers' snacks, as well. The Daily Herald's political team shared how dire the situation has become in Springfield:



American Cities Going Broke