“Dear Fellow Legislator:
“As you know, Governor Quinn took unprecedented action when he used the line item veto to eliminate General Assembly members' salaries for the entire year. This action was purely political and an unconstitutional attempt to coerce the legislature to comply with his demands. We write to inform you that later today we will file a lawsuit challenging Governor Quinn's unconstitutional action.
“This matter is of fundamental constitutional importance, as Governor 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.
“By eliminating General Assembly member's salaries, the Governor has chosen to disregard separation of powers and its necessity if our government is to work properly and efficiently.
“For us to ignore the Governor's actions, or override the veto, 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. If unchecked, any governor could attempt to employ the same tactic to threaten the legislature, the judiciary, or another constitutional officer to accomplish his or her own personal agenda. In this case, the Governor is seeking changes to the pension system, but next time it could be tax policy, gun control, or education reform. The possibilities are endless.
“The purpose of this lawsuit is to protect the independence of the legislature and preserve the separation of powers. It is our hope that the court will remedy this constitutional violation and that future governors will not feel empowered to use such coercive tactics.”
Michael Madigan & John Cullerton
You are hypocritical thieves.
“We write to inform you that [if and when you pass 'pension reform'] we will file a lawsuit challenging [your unconstitutional actions, for they are] purely political, [opportunistic] and an unconstitutional attempt to coerce [public employees] to comply with [your] demands.
“This matter is of fundamental constitutional importance, as ['pension reform'] threatens [retired and current public employees’ earned rights and benefits]. The Illinois Constitution protects [these rights and benefits. Article XIII, Section 5 of the Constitution of the State of Illinois was added in 1970 as a] safeguard to protect [public employees from a diminishment and impairment of benefits earned], to ensure the legislature could not [diminish those benefits], and to prohibit [Illinois legislators] from running roughshod over [public employees].
“[By diminishing public employees’ rights and benefits, the Illinois General Assembly] has chosen to disregard [the Illinois Constitution] and its necessity if [a] state government is to work [ethically,] properly and efficiently.
“[To violate a contract with public employees] would severely and irrevocably compromise [what a contract means] and set a very dangerous precedent…”
For all citizens have rights that must be protected. When legislators swear an oath to uphold the State and U.S. Constitutions (Article XIII, Section 3 of the Constitution of the State of Illinois), then citizens of Illinois and the United States have also acquired the right to expect that they will uphold that pledge. This is also a matter of important moral concern for all citizens of a state, for all legal claims will be validated by a moral framework since the concept of justice is grounded in ethics. If citizens’ legal rights are abused, then their dignity and humanity will also be violated.
To possess a right to a promised deferred compensation, such as a pension, is to assert a legitimate claim with all Illinois legislators to protect that right. There are no rights without obligations. They are mutually dependent. Fulfilling a contract is a legal and moral obligation justified by trust among elected officials and their constituents.
“The purpose of [our] lawsuit is to protect [public employees’ earned benefits and rights]… It is our hope that the court will remedy this constitutional violation and that future [legislators] will not feel empowered to use such coercive tactics [ever again].”
“[Any] attempt to denigrate the validity of decades of judicial precedents about the binding nature of legislation establishing pension commitments to government employees and to motivate state courts to overturn long-settled premises about these commitments would impose its own, unjustifiable costs. The states and their instrumentalities have promised pension benefits to their employees; those employees have relied on those long-standing promises; and as a result the citizens of the states have benefited from the services provided by those employees.
“There is no sound public policy reason to conclude that these promises – based on the reasonable expectations of the contracting parties – should not be fully protected by the laws prohibiting or limiting the impairment of contracts” (Greenfield, Douglas L., Lahne, Susan G. (2012). How Much Can States Change Existing Retirement Policy? In Defense of State Judicial Decisions Protecting Public Employees’ Pensions. National Council of State Legislatures Legislative Summit, 1-16). Retrieved December 9, 2012 from http://www.ncsl.org/documents/fiscal/DGreenfield_Presentation.pdf
Updated September 27th:
“Now that the governor’s actions have been answered by a court, I trust that we can put aside all distractions and focus on the goal of pension reform,” Senate President John Cullerton said. “Pension reform remains our top priority”(September 26).
Updated October 2nd:
Quinn filed a motion to fast track his appeal by sending it directly to the Illinois Supreme Court, bypassing a decision by the Illinois Appellate Court.
Updated October 17th:
"The Illinois Supreme Court has agreed to hear Gov. Pat Quinn's appeal of a ruling that his veto of money for lawmaker pay was unconstitutional. The court issued its one-page order Wednesday [October 16] without additional comment. A hearing date has not been set."