Illinois state politicians still waiting on paychecks because of refusal to pass balanced budget

Illinois state politicians still waiting on paychecks because of refusal to pass balanced budget

Latest budget proposal from House Democrats would almost certainly cause further delays in officials’ pay, as Gov. Bruce Rauner would likely veto the plan, which is unbalanced by $7 billion.

Without a serious budget proposal coming out of the General Assembly, it could be weeks, if not months, before Illinois politicians receive paychecks.

The Illinois Comptroller’s Office said May 25 any new budget that doesn’t balance could be costly for new obligations, increasing the state’s payment cycle and pushing lawmaker pay back, potentially as long as eight or nine months.

Back in April, Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger announced that paychecks for Illinois’ 177 members of the General Assembly, the lieutenant governor, comptroller, attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer would be delayed as a result of lawmakers’ inability to pass a balanced budget. (Due to his personal wealth and pledge to work for free, Gov. Bruce Rauner does not collect a paycheck from the state. The governor is entitled to a salary, however, and ordinarily would be paid by the state.)

Munger said in a news conference when announcing this plan that the total compensation for those legislators and statewide officeholders equals about $1.3 million per month.

Even though passing a balanced budget would allow for lawmakers to receive paychecks again, Illinois House Democrats don’t seem too hurried to pass one. Instead, they are taking the opposite approach, passing a budget nearly $7 billion out of balance, according to Illinois Office of Management and Budget analysis. Rauner will almost certainly veto it.

This proposal is even worse than a 2015 plan that overspent by $4 billion.

This situation must be frustrating for Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, who prepared years ago to make sure they could maintain their financial recklessness without losing their income.

In 2014, Madigan and Cullerton worked together to pass a law prohibiting reductions from year to year in the appropriations made available in the annual state budget for lawmakers’ salaries and legislative operating expenses. That law also permits the payment of lawmaker salaries and expenses even if there is no annual appropriation for that purpose, which is the situation Illinois has been in since July 2015.

Even though the General Assembly only meets part time, Illinois state politicians make between $68,000 and $95,000 annually, giving them the fifth-highest legislator salaries in the country.

When including the underfunded and mismanaged Illinois General Assembly Retirement System, Illinois’ active lawmakers each cost the state about $180,000 in 2015.

If lawmakers are anxious to see those generous, though unaffordable, paychecks again, their best bet is to pass a balanced budget. Thanks to budgetary tricks, Illinois hasn’t passed a balanced budget since 2001. But if that trend doesn’t change, lawmakers may have to keep waiting for their checks.

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