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Lawmakers Take Quinn To Court Over Pay Freeze

CHICAGO (CBS) -- It's an old saying: A day's pay for a day's work.

Gov. Pat Quinn said lawmakers were failing to act on pension reform. To his mind, that meant they weren't working, so he stopped paying them.

So, the lawmakers took Quinn to court.

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports, a court hearing on the issue on Wednesday didn't quite go as planned.

Essentially, Judge Neal Cohen called the lawmakers' bluff.

He asked questions like, "Why didn't you simply override the governor's veto, instead of coming to me?"

And he also implied that the paychecks shouldn't have been withheld until they took the vote on the governor's controversial maneuver.

"I think most people see it as a stunt," said Tom Cross, currently a candidate for state treasurer. "But if it's a stunt that actually gets the job done, we're OK with it."

The governor announced the no-pay strategy after the legislature failed to pass pension reform back in July.

So far, there's no sign it's gotten the job done.

Lawmakers, who are paid on the first of the month, are about to endure their third payless payday.

Quinn was asked whether the withholding of paychecks might be considered counterproductive.

"No not at all," he said. "I think there is a lot of focus on this. …. I think they've made some good progress."

That's not what sources close to the committee of lawmakers tasked with coming up with a plan told CBS 2.

Cross, who kicked off his campaign for state treasurer on Wednesday, agreed.

"I don't know that we're any closer to a real solution." he said. "What we are seeing is a lot of talk, but I don't see us getting any closer to a solution in the near future. That's a shame."

Quinn himself strode into the courtroom this afternoon, as the meter on high-priced lawyers paid with tax dollars ticked away.

Quinn was asked what he thought about taxpayer money being used to fight this legal battle.

"This is a fundamental constitutional issue," Quinn said. "The governor has the right to veto an appropriation.

"That's what I did, and we're gonna fight hard to uphold that right because that is on the side of the taxpayers and taxpayers of Illinois are on our side on that issue."

To some extent, it appeared, so was the judge, who won't rule for a few days.

Cohen implied the lawmakers were asking him to do their dirty work--by running to the courts to avoid the political heat sure to follow a vote for paychecks rather than pension reform.

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