Gov. Pat Quinn this month issued a line-item veto to bar the state comptroller from paying lawmakers who have failed to work out a compromise to ease mounting pension liabilities that are approaching $1 trillion and which have had a negative impact on the state's credit rating.
In a suit filed in Cook County Circuit Court, House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, both Chicago Democrats, accuse Quinn, a fellow Democrat, of abusing his power.
"Not since Governor [Rod] Blagojevich attempted to reduce the salaries of judges in 2003 have the actions of the executive branch so threatened the independence of a co-equal branch of government," the suit charges.
The suit says lawmakers will "suffer irreparable injury" if paychecks are not issued. It also characterizes Quinn's action as an "unlawful encroachment by the executive branch" on the independence of the Legislature.
The suit asks the court to direct state Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka to pay lawmakers.
Quinn called the lawsuit wrong, saying if lawmakers had put as much effort into pension reform as they have into the lawsuit, the issue would have been resolved.