Democratic state lawmakers sue Munger to get paid

Illinois House Democratic lawmakers are suing Republican Comptroller Leslie Munger, claiming her move to delay lawmakers' paychecks is unconstitutional.

The complaint, filed in Cook County circuit court Friday, cites a state statute that mandates members of the General Assembly "shall be paid in 12 equal monthly installments."

Munger, of Lincolnshire, announced in April that lawmakers' paychecks would be placed at the back of the line for payment after other "more urgent bills," among them those from nonprofits, small businesses and social services providers whose state payments were months behind. The state has since July 2015 gone without a full-year budget, with a temporary, stopgap measure set to expire in January and no agreed-upon solution in sight.

Comptrollers' office records show lawmakers last got paid in early September for work they did in the spring.

The suit, in which state Rep. Chris Welch of Westchester is the lead plaintiff, follows one House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton filed against former Gov. Pat Quinn in summer 2014 after Quinn moved to line-item veto lawmakers' pay out of the budget as a consequence for their failure to address the state's massive pension shortfall.

A judge that fall ruled that Quinn had overstepped his authority and violated a provision of the state Constitution forbidding changing lawmakers' pay once they begin serving a term, an argument Madigan's Democratic Party attorneys are using once again.

The base annual salary for Illinois lawmakers is $67,836, with many getting stipends for additional roles, such as chairing committees or acting as spokesman for the Democratic or Republican caucus.

The 118 General Assembly members' pay adds up to roughly $1.5 million per month, a small sum compared to the state's $10 billion backlog of unpaid bills. But Munger's "no budget, no pay" push became a popular theme in the race for comptroller, where she was beaten in a re-election bid by Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza. Next week, Mendoza will replace Munger, who was appointed in 2015.

Some lawmakers have taken up other jobs as they've waited on paychecks, including state Rep. Jaime Andrade of Chicago, who now drives for ridesharing service Uber.

Other lawmakers have lucrative second jobs. Madigan, Cullerton and House Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs are all partners at high-powered Chicago law firms. Gov. Bruce Rauner, a wealthy private equity investor, pulled in $188 million last year, tax returns recently released by his office show.

Munger released a statement calling the lawsuit "cowardly and self-serving" and noted "they refused to challenge my action while I was in office. They are now going to court when there will be a new administration led by one of their own."

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Illinois state Comptroller Leslie Munger speaks at a news conference in Chicago. Associated Press/June 10, 2015
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