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Article updated: 8/9/2013 5:32 AM

Harris troubled by Quinn salary veto

David Harris

David Harris

 
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State Rep. David Harris says he knows it's not necessarily popular for an elected official to talk about his paycheck.

But the Arlington Heights Republican called the other day to say he's troubled by the populist portrayal of Gov. Pat Quinn's decision to take away state lawmakers' salaries because they haven't cut teachers' and state workers' pension benefits.

Harris argues Quinn's move undercuts the basic thought that one branch of government shouldn't be so strong that it can just punish the others willy-nilly when it doesn't get what it wants.

"It's unfortunate that that's not being discussed more," Harris said. "That's wrong."

To be clear: Harris doesn't necessarily think what Quinn did was unconstitutional, as a court case from top legislative Democrats argues. But, the precedent is a problem, he said.

After all, what if Quinn threatened to take away lawmakers' pay in 2011 unless they supported the income tax hike he wanted?

"It pulls out the rug from any support he might have in the legislature," he said. "He has absolutely poisoned the well of cooperation."

And another thing ...

Quinn touted his move as a suspension of pay until lawmakers agree on pension reform. But, with the way legislation works, he can't give lawmakers their pay back if they eventually do what he wants. They'll have to do it themselves or hope that third branch of government, the courts, intervenes.

"He can't turn the spigot back on himself," Harris said.

But wait ...

Not everyone shares his opinion, of course. The state's pension debt is more than $100 billion, and the yearly growth is one of the state's many serious budget challenges.

State Rep. Tom Morrison, a Palatine Republican whose district shares a border with Harris', said Illinois has an unemployment rate higher than the national average, so why shouldn't lawmakers share in some of the pain their constituents have felt?

"What makes my colleagues think they're any better than people in the public?" Morrison said.

Morrison said if lawmakers think they're owed their salaries, they should go back to Springfield and override Quinn. He said voters would be mad, but rightfully so because of the importance of pension reform.

"We do everyone in this state great harm by delaying on this," Morrison said.

The big cheese

Quinn has maybe pinned his political future on what some see as a bold, populist move. He even showed up at the first court hearing on the matter this week.

"The best way to settle the case in this matter is for the legislature to start moving on pension reform," Quinn said.

Less work, more pay

Cook County Clerk David Orr this week said the first six months of the year have been good ones for lobbyists who work locally. He said lobbyists who try to influence county officials made $1.46 million in that time.

At the same time that the amount of money paid to lobbyists is up over last year, the number of contacts with officials they reported making is down, from 540 to 517.

"From the activity reported, we know county officials were lobbied about firearms, taxes and landfills," Orr said in a statement. "This information sheds some light -- although not enough -- on who is being paid to influence county decision-makers."

Over the same time last year, lobbyists made $1.15 million.

The No. 1 firm was All-Circo, Inc., and their top client was Northbrook's CVS Caremark.

Tony's legacy

Lawmakers are meeting in the suburbs this month to further talk about boat safety proposals aimed at preventing deaths like that of Libertyville's Tony Borcia last year.

Borcia was killed after the tube he was riding on in Petite Lake was hit by a powerboat. The powerboat's driver, David Hatyina of Bartlett, was found to have alcohol and cocaine in his system and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Borcia's aunt, state Sen. Julie Morrison of Deerfield, shepherded a new law that could take the right to drive a car away from boaters involved in similar tragedies.

Now, a small committee of Lake County lawmakers -- including Morrison and state Sens. Pamela Althoff, Terry Link, Melinda Bush and Dan Duffy -- plan to meet Aug. 29 to address other ideas, some of which have been proposed by Morrison already. They'll meet at 1 p.m. at the Lake County Central Permit Facility, 500 W. Winchester in Libertyville.

The public is welcome, and they plan to discuss further driver's license restrictions for drunken boaters and other ideas.

Kirk at the races

The Illinois State Fair starts today in Springfield, and U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk will be among the attendees next week.

The Highland Park Republican will be a guest of state Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka at a horse-racing event.

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