Gov. Quinn adds insult to injury by increasing regional superintendents' duties while withholding their pay.
If this was any state other than Illinois, this would come under the category of "Can you believe it?"
But it's Illinois — where skeptical citizens are hard to surprise.
It concerns the state's beleaguered regional superintendents of education, who've gone since July 1 without a paycheck and, most likely, will have to go another couple of months before their pay dispute with Gov. Pat Quinn is resolved.
Fed up with continuing to do their jobs and not being paid, the state's 44 superintendents last week unsuccessfully sought a court order forcing the state's executive branch of government to pay them.
After hearing arguments and mulling them over, Sangamon County Circuit Judge John Schmidt ruled that the court has no authority to intervene in an executive branch pay dispute sparked by the governor's lawful exercise of his amendatory veto authority.
Quinn vetoed an $11-million salary appropriation for the superintendents and their assistants, leaving the dispute to be addressed by the General Assembly during the fall veto session.
"Taken to the absurd, the governor has the power to veto appropriations to pay the salaries of all state officials and suspend the operation of all the state's departments. The bare possibility that one of them might abuse their power does not authorize this court to take from the executive the powers the Constitution plainly vests in them," Schmidt wrote in his decision.
In other words, this battle over salaries for the superintendents is between the governor and the Legislature, and the court will not interpose itself between the two.
Schmidt's decision makes sense. Here's the aspect of the story that is, well, crazy.
Last week, while Quinn was fending off efforts by the superintendents to be paid, the governor signed S.B. 2170, legislation that expands the statutory duties of the same superintendents.
Citizens may recall that after Champaign County voters approved a sales tax increase for local school construction and renovation, it was the county board that set the tax at 1 cent per $1.
The new bill removes county boards from the equation when voters approve the sales tax. But the legislation also requires regional superintendents to certify the sales tax question to the proper election authorities if the requisite number of school districts decide to pursue a sale tax increase for construction.
While it's not clear how valuable the regional superintendents of education are, they are a creation of statute and the posts are filled by a vote of the public. Quinn's effort to undermine the office by not paying the superintendents reflects his backward governing style. He should go to the General Assembly and ask for the offices to be dissolved rather than try to starve elected officials out of office.
That, however, is a political fight, one Quinn is likely to lose when the Legislature reconvenes. But his decision to expand the duties of the office while denying the superintendents pay further reflects a one-thing-one-day-and-something-else-the-next style of governing that is undermining any belief he can lead Illinois in an effective manner.