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Our view: Pay bills first, then salaries

If you’re a vendor with the state of Illinois, it’s likely that you’re worried about getting paid.

As of Wednesday, the state had more than 209,000 backlogged vouchers, according to the Illinois Comptroller’s website. State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka has asked lawmakers to transfer more than $1 billion from financially sound programs to agencies running out of money, including those that serve children and the disabled.

Illinois having fiscal problems is nothing new, nor is the fact that state lawmakers have yet to get serious about solving them.

New lawmaker state Rep. Charlie Meier, R-Okawville, has proposed a bold, albeit doomed, idea. He filed a measure proposing the salaries, travel expenses and per diems for the state’s constitutional officers and General Assembly members not be paid until the state’s vendors get paid.

In the “Fresh Ideas” section of Meier’s campaign website, he notes a business that had a bad year financially would not spend more, but figure out what to cut and where income can be improved, and then balance its budget. Springfield needs to do that, he added.

The Illinois Observer quoted an anonymous lobbyist as calling Meier’s proposal a stunt. And maybe it is. We have no doubt the bill never will be called for a vote.

And that’s a shame. It should at least be considered. Why should the lawmakers who got the state into this financial quagmire be paid for continuing to kick the can down the road on solving it?

Calling the proposal for a debate would provide an opportunity for lawmakers who have mouthed platitudes about wanting to dig the state out of debt a chance to put their money where their mouth is.

Legislators are elected to do what is best for the residents of Illinois. And they continue to fail in that endeavor. Perhaps the threat of a loss of pay – something many in Illinois have often faced during the past several years – will be the push lawmakers need to finally get serious about finding solutions.


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