Illinois lawmakers are suing the state for their paychecks

Illinois lawmakers are suing the state for their paychecks

A group of state representatives has filed a lawsuit against Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger.

As thousands of state vendors wait months for payments in Illinois, and residents suffer under the highest unemployment rate in the region, state politicians filed a lawsuit Dec. 2 over the timeliness of their paychecks.

Democratic state Reps. Kate Cloonen, Mary Flowers, Sonya Harper, Lisa Hernandez, Silvana Tabares and Emmanuel Chris Welch filed the suit against Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger.

Illinois lawmakers most recently received paychecks in September for their work in the spring, according to the Daily Herald. In April, Munger threw lawmaker salaries in with the rest of the state’s bill backlog, which now totals $10 billion. The suit cites a provision in state law that says members of the General Assembly “shall be paid in 12 equal monthly installments.”

Illinois politicians aren’t used to being treated like ordinary Illinoisans.

Lawmakers earn base salaries of nearly $68,000 for what is essentially part-time work. When health care, dental care and pension benefits are included, taxpayers cough up an average of $100,000 per active Illinois lawmaker.

And yet, in addition to the recent lawsuit, some lawmakers have made public complaints about not receiving their pay on time.

Illinois’ state lawmakers also enjoy levels of pay protection not granted to any other body of state government.

Indeed, before April, state lawmakers were getting paid despite Illinois’ lack of a state budget. How? A 2014 bill Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton rammed through the General Assembly.

The bill exempted lawmaker salaries and operating expenses from the annual appropriations process. In other words, lawmaker compensation became a “continuing appropriation,” which means only a specific prohibition can stop money from flowing to politicians. General Assembly members’ pay is also immune from year-to-year cuts.

Former Gov. Pat Quinn signed the bill.

Illinois lawmakers should keep in mind that they live in a state with the second-slowest personal-income growth in the nation. Too many Illinoisans have gone years without a decent paycheck.

Illinois is also the second-worst state in the nation for putting people back to work in the wake of the Great Recession, and is home to the worst manufacturing recovery in the Midwest.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers receive high salaries, unprecedented paycheck security, great health care and guaranteed pension payments on the backs of taxpayers.

Their privilege in the face of suffering is staggering.

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