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Topinka Can’t Pay Lawmakers Without Appropriation
Topinka Can’t Pay Lawmakers Without Appropriation

Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka says she’ll have to withhold paychecks from Illinois lawmakers.

After her office conducted a legal review of the governor’s decision to remove legislators’ salaries from a budget bill earlier this month, Topinka was advised that comptrollers can’t pay state employees without an appropriation or a court order.

“I cannot act unilaterally here,” Topinka said today (Thursday) at a news conference at the Thompson Center in Chicago. “I have to rely on either the courts or the legislature.”

In discussions with the Illinois attorney general’s office, the case of AFSCME vs. Netsch was cited as the most relevant ruling on the matter. That case, however, did not involve two equal branches of government, which Topinka said may be the distinction that courts are asked to consider.

“Given the serious precedent that is being created, I look forward to receiving additional guidance from the judicial branch,” she said.

The comptroller added that in her opinion, the government shouldn’t be run through threats and blackmail, but rather “makes us look ridiculous.” Quinn called the veto of pay a consequence of lawmakers failing to agree on pension reform.

Legislators were scheduled to get paid next on Aug. 1. The veto of their salaries does not apply to their staffs.