Illinois Supreme Court rejects back pay for former state lawmakers

Illinois Supreme Court rejects back pay for former state lawmakers

In a unanimous decision, the Illinois Supreme Court denied a lawsuit by two former state senators seeking back pay. The senators bragged about voting against the raises, then decided they deserved them after leaving office.

The Illinois Supreme Court denied back pay for two former state senators in a 6-0 decision.

Former state Sen. James Clayborne, D-Belleville, and former state Sen. Michael Noland, D-Elgin, claimed they were entitled to compensation they voted against while in office.

Clayborne sought $104,412 and Noland $71,507 in cost-of-living adjustments they rejected as lawmakers. Naming Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza as a defendant, the two argued the salary reduction was unconstitutional in the first place.

She replied by calling them “shameless grifters.”

Representing Mendoza, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul argued it was too late for the pair to go back on their votes as lawmakers. In their ruling Sept. 22, the court agreed with Raoul, writing that Clayborne and Noland had their chance for the salary increase.

“We conclude that under the facts here, where plaintiffs, former legislators, agreed to, acquiesced in, and voted for the Salary Reduction Laws, plaintiffs cannot now be allowed to challenge the reductions in their salaries during their previous terms in office,” Justice P. Scott Neville wrote for the court.

Noland originally filed the lawsuit in 2017 after leaving office. Clayborne joined him in 2019 after deciding not to seek re-election.

Cook County Judge Franklin Valderrama ruled in their favor, as did Circuit Court Judge Allen P. Walker, who ordered Mendoza to pay the back earnings in 2021. Mendoza then appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court.

After the Great Recession in 2008, Illinois legislators voted to cancel their annual cost-of-living adjustments multiple times. Both Clayborne and Noland boasted about rejecting their raises in statements to voters, and Noland was a co-sponsor of one of the bills to reject the raises.

In recent years state lawmakers have voted to raise their salaries.

A legislator with no leadership role will earn $73,345 in base compensation for fiscal year 2023, not including their per diem. The General Assembly has raised their base salaries by more than $5,500 since 2019 while Illinoisans bear the highest state and local tax burden in the nation.

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