Lawmaker Pay Suspended as Taxpayers Pay for Pension Crisis - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Lawmaker Pay Suspended as Taxpayers Pay for Pension Crisis

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Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said he's taking drastic measures in hopes of fixing the state's nearly $100 billion pension mess. On Wednesday he announced he's taking away lawmakers' salaries until they can come up with a comprehensive pension reform plan. 

"This is an emergency," Quinn declared. "This is a crisis." 

Lawmakers have been ignoring deadlines to fix the pension crisis for years. During that time the state's credit rating has declined. In January of 2013, Illinois officially became the state with the lowest credit rating in the country. As the state's credit rating declines, taxpayers must pay higher interest rates on borrowed money for public projects like bridges and schools. 

"It's squeezing out our investment in schools in education, our children. It's harming our public services for safety and for health," Quinn said.

Each day that goes by without reform, the pension debt grows by millions. Quinn said he hopes his announcement to suspend lawmakers' salaries comes as a wakeup call to solve the problem.    

But many have been calling the announcement a stunt - saying it means nothing for the people of Illinois.

"I think it's a political ploy," said State Representative Mike Smiddy (D-Hillsdale).

Smiddy said Quinn has not given lawmakers enough direction to solve the problem and come up with a comprehensive plan.   

"I think taxpayers should be offended that he has called us down so many times for special sessions when he knew there wasn't a solution," Smiddy said. "That wastes more taxpayer's money than anything."

Smiddy predicts lawmakers will call a special session to override Quinn's veto on the lawmaker's pay. However, Quinn has advised them not to do that.

Meanwhile, legislators are debating whether Quinn's veto on their pay is legal. Quinn remains certain it is and added he is also asking his own pay be withheld until a comprehensive plan is devised.

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