Illinois governor dares lawmakers in growing Democratic Party feud

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 31, 2013 5:28 PM
Illinois governor dares lawmakers in growing Democratic Party feud

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Illinois Governor Pat Quinn on Wednesday said state lawmakers mad at him for suspending their pay should vote to overturn his action instead of suing him, the latest volley in a growing feud within the Illinois Democratic Party.

A day after leaders of the state House of Representatives and Senate, both Democrats, sued the Democratic governor, Quinn said the Illinois Constitution is "crystal clear" in giving him the authority to veto the money for lawmaker pay.

Quinn hit lawmakers in the pocketbook on July 10 to penalize them for failing to agree on a fix to the state's $100 billion unfunded pension liability. Illinois has the lowest credit rating among U.S. states in part because of the pension mess.

"The legislature has an opportunity if they don't agree with me to go down to Springfield and take a vote, override what I did and tell the people they think their pay is more important than pension reform," Quinn said at a news conference on another issue.

The feud between Quinn, House Speaker Michael Madigan, and Senate President John Cullerton has overshadowed negotiations on the pension issue. The battle is complicated by the upcoming 2014 gubernatorial election in which Quinn faces a primary challenge from President Barack Obama's former chief of staff William Daley, the son and brother of Chicago mayors. Several Republicans have also announced they are running for governor.

The legislature ended its spring session on May 31 at an impasse on pension reform. A bipartisan legislative panel created on June 19 has been charged with coming up with a plan to ease pension costs.

Democratic State Representative Elaine Nekritz, an architect of pension reform proposals in the House, said she did not believe the sparring would affect the negotiations.

"No one's signed off on anything yet, but I feel we're closing in on it," she said, adding that it was possible the panel could have a plan ready in August.

(Reporting by Karen Pierog; Editing by Greg McCune and Phil Berlowitz)