Original petition for mandamus.
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE GOLDENHERSH DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Pursuant to leave granted, petitioners, the People of the State of Illinois ex rel. Jerry Cosentino, Treasurer of the State of Illinois, and Roy O. Gulley, Director of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts>, filed this original action (Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, sec. 4(a)); 73 Ill.2d R. 381) seeking writs of mandamus to compel the Counties of Adams, Effingham, Hancock, Kane, Lake, La Salle, Putnam and Woodford, and the members of their county boards, to reimburse the State for those counties' apportioned shares of judicial salaries.
Petitioners filed their motion for leave to file this action on December 29, 1977. At that time there was pending in the General Assembly a bill, subsequently enacted, effective December 14, 1978 (Pub. Act 80-1473), which amended the statutes in issue here (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 53, pars. 3.2, 3.3). Petitioners thereafter moved to file an amended petition reflecting the present circumstances of the case.
The statutory provisions in issue (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 53, pars. 3.2, 3.3) provide that circuit judges and associate judges are to receive a stated basic salary from the State to be paid out of the State treasury. Circuit and associate judges in the circuit comprised of the First Judicial District (Cook County) and all other circuits composed of a single county are to be paid stated sums of "additional salary" by those counties. Circuit and associate judges in all circuit courts> other than those constituted by the First Judicial District or composed of a single county are paid additional salary out of the State treasury in amounts equivalent to that paid by the counties in the First Judicial District and other single-county circuits. With regard to the additional salary paid out of the State treasury, sections 3.2 and 3.3 of the statute involved direct as follows:
"The counties in each Judicial circuit, other than the Circuit Court in the Judicial Court constituted by the First Judicial District and any Judicial circuit composed of a single county, shall reimburse the State Treasury for each additional [sum of] salary paid to [circuit and associate] judges of their Circuit Courts>. The sums to be paid by the counties in each such circuit shall be computed by the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts> and shall be apportioned among those counties in accordance with their respective populations compared with the total population of all counties within the same circuit. The population of each county shall be determined by the last federal census immediately preceding such reimbursement. Each county shall pay its portion of reimbursement not later than the last day of January in the year immediately following such additional salary payment by the State." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 53, pars. 3.2, 3.3.
This controversy arises because respondents have refused to pay all or part of the amount of reimbursement due for the period July 1, 1975, through December 31, 1978. It is respondents' position that it is the State's constitutional obligation to pay judicial salaries and that sections 3.2 and 3.3 contravene article VI, section 14, of the 1970 Constitution, which provides in part:
"Judges shall receive salaries provided by law which shall not be diminished to take effect during their terms of office. All salaries and such expenses as may be provided by law shall be paid by the State, except that Appellate, Circuit and Associate Judges shall receive such additional compensation from counties within their district or circuit as may be provided by law."
Respondents contend that the statutes violate the provisions of article VI, section 14, of the 1970 Constitution for the reason that they are "inconsistent with the intent and language of the Illinois Constitution." They argue that the historical background and the constitutional debates show that the intent of the framers of the Constitution was to make the supplementation of judicial salaries by the counties permissive, and that section 14 does not permit the State to unilaterally shift the burden of judicial salaries onto the counties. Citing to the Constitutional Convention debates they argue further that the intent of the provision was to permit other counties to supplement judicial salaries, as did Cook County, under article VI, section 25, of the Constitution of 1870 and section 17 of the Judicial Article approved in 1962, effective 1964.
We have examined those portions of the debates of the constitutional convention cited by respondents (3 Record of Proceedings, Sixth Illinois Constitutional Convention 2217-21, 2260-72) and find apropos our statement in Client Follow-Up Co. v. Hynes (1979), 75 Ill.2d 208, 221:
"It is possible to lift from the constitutional debates on almost any provision statements by a delegate or a few delegates which will support a particular proposition; however, such a discussion by a few does not establish the intent or understanding of the convention."
The guiding principle, also found in Hynes, is that "although the constitutional debates may often be helpful in understanding the meaning of doubtful constitutional provisions, the true inquiry concerns the understanding of its provisions by the voters who, by their vote, have given life to the product of the convention. People ex rel. Keenan v. McGuane (1958), 13 Ill.2d 520, 527; Wolfson v. Avery (1955), 6 Ill.2d 78, 88; Burke v. Snively (1904), 208 Ill. 328, 344." (75 Ill.2d 208, 222.)
The explanation to the voters states:
"This changes Article VI, Section 17 of the 1870 Constitution. It extends to all counties the provision currently applicable only to Cook County, to pay Circuit Judges a supplementary salary." 6 Proceedings 2720-21.
An examination of the constitutional and legislative history shows that initially, judicial salaries were payable out of the "public treasury." (Ill. Const. 1818, art. IV, sec. 5; see Ill. Const. 1848, art. V, sec. 10.) Under the 1870 Constitution, salaries were constitutionally fixed "until otherwise provided by law." (Ill. Const. 1870, art. VI, secs. 7, 16.) Section 25 of article VI provided in part that "The judges of the superior and circuit courts>, and the state's attorney, in said county, shall receive the same salaries, payable out of the state treasury, as is or may be paid from said treasury to ...