It’s hard to have much sympathy for six Chicago-area Democratic state representatives who sued the Illinois comptroller’s office Dec. 2 for back pay that’s been held up since August by Illinois’ protracted budget mess. After all, those lawmakers are part of the problem.
It’s the Illinois General Assembly’s responsibility to approve a budget that the governor is willing to sign.
If lawmakers approve a budget, the governor vetoes it, and legislators are then unable to override the veto, it seems to us those lawmakers have an obligation to negotiate in good faith with the governor until a budget deal satisfactory to all parties can be reached.
We haven’t heard any of thesix – Emanuel “Chris” Welch, Kate Cloonen, Lisa Hernandez, Mary Flowers, Sonya Harper and Silvana Tabares – pushing hard to get fellow legislators moving on the budget.
We haven’t heard them challenging Democratic legislative leaders, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, to soften their stances on making a budget deal with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner – a budget deal that would start payments to the plaintiffs and thousands of others flowing again.
Apparently it was easier for Welch and company to sue outgoing Republican Comptroller Leslie Munger on her final work day in office than to do the work they expect to be paid for.
Democrat Susana Mendoza was sworn in as comptroller Dec. 5 after winning a special election last month. She has said she will continue to withhold payment to lawmakers unless ordered by a judge to put their checks at the head of the line in front of all other unpaid vendors and workers.
It’s a long line of misery – 126,000 unpaid bills totaling more than $10.3 billion, according to Munger on her last day in office – and it’s gotten worse. The backlog had risen to more than $10.5 billion.
One of the problems for many lawmakers is that they view their jobs as full time.
They certainly get paid full-time salaries – $67,836. Many receive stipends of $10,327 for extra duties. The total: $78,163.
But the Legislature is in session only from January until May, with a 2-week veto session in November.
Full-time employment? Not hardly.
By stretching their legislative jobs to full time, such lawmakers don’t have any “real” jobs to fall back on. And now, their personal finances are feeling the pinch.
Lawmakers who want to get paid should do their jobs. Approving a budget deal is Job 1.