SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) _ The Illinois Supreme Court is considering whether Gov. Rod Blagojevich has the authority to deny cost-of-living pay increases to about 900 judges across the state.

Two members of the Illinois Judges Association sued the governor last year after he vetoed hikes to help reduce an estimated $5 billion state deficit. Oral arguments were heard Wednesday, according to the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.

``They took the case under consideration and will rule in due course,'' said court spokesman Joe Tybor.

Chicago attorney Kevin M. Forde argued pay raises are protected because they ensure judges remain independent and free from political pressures.

``We repeat emphatically, this case is not about money,'' the plaintiffs said in a written statement. ``By law, the right to annual cost-of living adjustments is a vested component of judges' salary, and thus protected by the Constitution from attack by the other, more powerful branches of government.''

The Daily Law Bulletin reported Solicitor General Gary Feinerman, arguing for the state, claimed the increases are not part of the judges' protected salary. Feinerman declined to comment to The Associated Press.

Judicial salaries range from $127,247 for associate circuit judges to $158,103 for justices of the Supreme Court.