CHICAGO — — When Gov. Pat Quinn grew angry that lawmakers hadn't found a way to fix Illinois' pension crisis, he eliminated their salaries. But these days the only elected official going without pay is the governor himself.
Even after a judge ruled it unconstitutional for Quinn to hold legislators' monthly pay, the Chicago Democrat has vowed that he won't collect his own paycheck until the pension problem is solved. So far, that means three paychecks totaling more than $44,000 have piled up in Quinn's name at the state comptroller's office.
Quinn's critics call it a populist stunt in the midst of his 2014 re-election campaign, at a time when the governor's approval rating is among the lowest of any governor in the country and the state's fiscal problems have yet to be solved. But supporters say he is leading by example at a difficult economic time.
If lawmakers don't act soon on pensions, the 64-year-old Chicagoan — whose $177,000 annual check makes up almost all of his reported income — could find himself in a tight spot. But so far, Quinn shrugs off the hardship, saying simply that he is managing.
Those close to him say he should fare fine, for now, because he is as frugal as he has always boasted. He flashes his Super 8 preferred customer hotel card, lives in a modest neighborhood and at least outwardly shows limited interest in finery.
"He doesn't have any luxuries. He doesn't drink very much. He doesn't stay in fancy hotels," said Quentin Young, Quinn's former doctor and a friend who's served on state boards.
Still, Quinn's move has elicited eye rolls, especially from his potential 2014 GOP challengers. They argue that Quinn should be doing more to force a pension solution rather than just demanding that the Democratic-led Legislature present him with something he can sign.