Editorial: Senate should nix pay hike

Staff reports

Given the current state of state government, there is little of substance expected out of special legislative sessions this week.

But there is one task the Illinois Senate should take care of while in town: Reject the pay raise its members are set to receive. Unless the Senate rejects the raise, the base pay for House and Senate members will increase from $65,353 to $70,022. Without the Senate vote, another pay increase would happen on July 1, 2009, with a lawmaker’s base salary increasing to $72,985. Lawmakers get more money when they serve in leadership or on committees.

While those amounts are not funded in the current state budget, we’re sure lawmakers will find a way to slip them into future budgets should the Senate not act this week. Lawmakers already voted to fund a salary increase from $65,353 to $67,836 in the budget that became effective July 1.

Senate President Emil Jones, D-Chicago, is doing the right thing by allowing a vote on the raises. He had held up a resolution that would kill the raise for the General Assembly, governor and other state officials. The power to stop legislation from coming to the floor is enjoyed by him and House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago.

Sen. Susan Garrett, D-Lake Forest, said lawmakers should not get a raise because the state is hurting from budget cuts.

“Substance abuse shelters can’t get funding, but we’re going to give ourselves the biggest pay raise in history,” Garrett said. “It’s very clear and obvious we need to take a vote."

That's true, but the General Assembly’s record of failure goes beyond the budget to its inability to cobble together a capital plan, its decades-long failure to reform education funding and a structural deficit that leaves the state’s vendors waiting months for payment, just to name a few issues.

Few businesses would reward such a record. Illinois should not either.

State Journal-Register