Illinois governor blocks legislator pay, setting up battle over veto power

Stateline Midwest ~ July/August 2013

A decision by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn in July to block the salaries of state legislators has resulted in a constitutional showdown between the legislative and executive branches of government. According to the Peoria Journal Star, Quinn made the move due to legislative inaction over the state’s pension crisis.


A few weeks later, legislative leaders filed a lawsuit contending the governor’s suspension of legislative pay is unconstitutional and threatens “the independence of a co-equal branch of government.” If left unchallenged, the leaders said, the governor’s actions would set a “dangerous precedent”: the withholding of salaries as a tactic for future governors to coerce legislative action.

Supermajority votes of the legislature can override gubernatorial vetoes.When he made the move, Quinn cited his line-item veto authority. He vetoed out the legislators’ salaries from a state budget bill. In the Midwest, every state except Indiana provides the governor with some type of line-item veto authority, according to CSG’s 2013 “The Book of the States. In Illinois, those powers extend to all bills. This gubernatorial power is reserved for only appropriations bills in the region’s nine other states.