Going slow on pay problem

The legislative pay dispute isn't near the emergency legislators think it is.

It would appear that the Chicago judge assigned to hear the pay dispute lawsuit between Gov. Quinn and legislators is a lot less interested in the issue than the litigants.

House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton last week filed a lawsuit that alleges Gov. Pat Quinn's decision to suspend their pay violates the Illinois Constitution and asked the state's judicial branch of government to set the issue straight.

Cook County Circuit Judge Neal Cohen said this week he'll be happy to hear oral arguments on the issue, but not until Sept. 18. With any luck, Gov. Quinn and legislators will have worked out their differences by then, rendering the entire issue moot. That's probably what Judge Cohen is hoping.

This silly political battle stems from Quinn's grandstanding decision to veto legislative appropriations to cover the pay of Illinois House and Senate members. He says they'll go without their pay until they pass legislation aimed at fixing the state's serious public pension woes.

Legislators, however, contend Quinn's veto won't have any effect on their approach to the pension problems while simultaneously taking their complaint to court.

There's an easier solution to the pay problem. Legislators can gather and vote to override Quinn's veto of appropriations for legislative salaries. But they don't want the public to see just how self-interested they are. That's why they went to court.

There's no good reason for the judiciary to be involved in an issue that can be resolved through routine interaction between the legislative and executive branches of government. That's probably why Judge Cohen decided he wouldn't be stampeded into giving the pay dispute greater priority than it deserves.

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