Cullerton to back ‘blatantly unconstitutional’ halt of legislative pay raises

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State Senate President John Cullerton speaks with the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board on Wednesday. | Ashlee Rezin/for Sun-Times Media

Senate President John Cullerton will support a bill to halt legislative pay raises during the Senate session next week, despite calling the measure “blatantly unconstitutional.”

Cullerton also plans to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of a bill that would prohibit state worker unions from a strike or lockout and instead provide an arbitrator to resolve the contract.

House Speaker Michael Madigan on Tuesday pushed through a bill to block the cost-of-living increases, calling it another effort to meet Rauner “half way” as the budget impasse drags on.

On Wednesday, Cullerton told the Sun-Times Editorial Board that he’ll call the bill next week.

“We’re going to call that next week, and I’m going to support it,” Cullerton said, adding that “it’s blatantly unconstitutional,” but “nobody’s gonna sue.”

This isn’t the first time COLA benefits have come up. In 2008, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich vetoed a bill containing pay raises for Illinois judges. The Illinois Supreme Court ultimately ordered cost of living raises after a lawsuit was filed by two judges, saying the Illinois Constitution ensures thatjudges’ salaries can’t be diminished during their terms in office.

Madigan’s bill suspends automatic pay raises, which would boost lawmaker’s $68,000 salaries with an additional $1,400. It also holds level reimbursements lawmakers get for per-diem and mileage. In all, Madigan said the savings are about $500,000.

RELATED:Brown: Democrats fumble pay raise

Also on Wednesday,Rauner vetoed a pro-union Senate bill that would replace collective bargaining with binding interest arbitration:“This legislation is undemocratic, it is bad for our budget, and it is unconstitutional,” Rauner’s office said in a statement.

Rauner also said the bill is unconstitutional and would impair contractual obligations.

“Senate Bill 1229 would cede major financial decisions to unelected, unaccountable arbitrators. This legislation is bad policy and would derail our efforts to honestly balance the State’s budget and enact meaningful government reforms,” Rauner said.

Cullerton said he plans to ask his members to vote to override the veto on Wednesday.

“What that means is that if we override him, that means that there will be arbitration and no strike, and we’ll have a settlement on how much part of our budget is for state employees,” Cullerton said. “nd it’ll be fine because then we won’t have a strike and there will be another part of the budget — and whatever that arbitrator tells us that’s how much we have to appropriate.”

Rauner and theAmerican Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, the state’s largest public employee union, on Wednesday reached a two-month contract extension, which allows state workers to keep working and prevents a strike or lockout during the course of the extension. That is set to expire on Sept. 30.

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