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Our View: Want your paycheck? Get in line

Published: Monday, Aug. 12, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Aug. 12, 2013 7:50 a.m. CDT

Add Illinois legislators to the list of people owed money by the state. The public’s primary reaction should be this: Get in line.

Schools, social service agencies, vendors and thousands of others are owed money because of the state’s lack of fiscal responsibility. It’s only fitting that those most responsible for our financial crisis are inconvenienced right where taxpayers are being most inconvenienced – in their wallets.

House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton are suing Gov. Pat Quinn over Quinn’s decision to cut $13.8 million in legislative pay from the state budget, effectively eliminating legislators’ pay. Quinn also voluntarily gave up his $177,412 salary.

Quinn’s move came after legislators failed to meet another one of Quinn’s deadlines to resolve the state’s pension crisis, which includes $100 billion in unfunded liability.

The circus surrounding Quinn’s line-item veto would be hilarious if it didn’t continue to cost Illinois $17 million each day pension reform goes unresolved.

Is it grandstanding? Probably. Is it legal? We’re not sure. But at this point, Quinn, Madigan and Cullerton must find a solution to the pension crisis by any means necessary. If legislators lose some pay in the process, be assured that it is the absolute least of the public’s concern.

There is simply no responsibility greater for state lawmakers than pension reform. Think about the most critical task you perform on your job. Suppose you decided to put it off for months or years? How long would you expect to continue collecting a paycheck?

The tragedy is that a legal battle among the state’s leaders over legislative pay is just another thing taking precedence over pension reform, where those same leaders consistently fail taxpayers on a daily basis.

We can’t be anything but skeptical, but if this fight moves legislators closer to pension reform, it’s not the worst thing that could happen.

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