Cook County Circuit Judge Rodolfo Garcia stated at a March 16 hearing that
lawmakers’ paychecks cannot be extradited ahead of Illinois’ more than $12.5
billion in backlogged bills. Garcia’s statement was made in response to a
lawsuit Illinois House Democrats brought over former Comptroller Leslie Munger’s
decision to delay legislator pay just like the delayed payments to thousands of
“I think there are serious problems with the legislators coming here to make a
claim,” Garcia said after listening to arguments at the hearing. The Tribune
reported that Garcia would go on to say that the issue could be solved “by
simply passing a budget.”
Despite his initial sentiment in court, Garcia has agreed to hear further
arguments. The Tribune reported that lawyers from both sides have agreed to come
back to court March 23.
Though Democratic challenger Susana Mendoza defeated Munger in the November
elections, Mendoza has opted to keep Munger’s policy in place.
It’s a guarantee no other state employee or vendor enjoys.
Illinois lawmakers are the highest paid legislators in the Midwest. The baseline
salary for a member of the General Assembly is nearly $68,000 a year, for what
is considered a part-time job. When benefits, per diem payments and stipends are
included, the average Illinois lawmaker takes home $100,000 per year.
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Unlike most Illinoisans, lawmaker pay is not tied to performance.
While politicians enjoy high pay, Illinoisans struggle – the state
has the highest tax burden in the nation and some of the highest
property taxes in the country, even higher than those in every state
without income taxes. Illinois ended 2016 with the highest black
unemployment rate in the country, and Illinois’ workforce in total
is in a 10-year decline. Since 2000, 150,000 Illinois college
students have left the state to go to pursue their higher education
elsewhere; thanks in no small part to the more than 100 percent
increase in tuition costs at Illinois universities and colleges
caused by unsustainable pensions for university employees and
widespread administrative bloat.
Rather than prioritize themselves, the sitting representatives
should drop this lawsuit and work to pass a balanced budget. They
should focus on paying back the more than $12.5 billion in bills
currently owed to vendors for services already rendered. And instead
of focusing on their own pay, they should be focused on how to solve
Illinois’ systemic problems instead of perpetuating them.
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