Editorial: Enough delays - pass up the raises already, Illinois politicians
As the state Legislature's spring session winds down, lawmakers are trying to put the finishing touches on a state budget that takes care of at least $11 billion of red ink. While doing that, they're also allegedly going to take up a slew of ethics reforms to remove the stink of corruption from the Land of Lincoln.
While they're talking about jacking up our taxes and trying to convince voters they really want to clean up the cesspool of state government, we wouldn't want them to forget to do their share in the name of reform by skipping their pay raise.
As we've written before, lawmakers, state agency directors and the five constitutional officers are in line for a 2.8 percent cost-of-living increase, boosting even the lowest-paid legislator to a base salary over $70,000.
After waiting for four months, House Republicans rolled out a measure in April that would kill the COLAs set for July 1. All but three Democrats voted to keep it bottled up in the Rules Committee, where the majority party sends legislation to die. Democrats claimed the bill missed a key deadline to move ahead. Lo and behold, after some newspapers started to report on the issue, Democrats suddenly moved legislation of their own rejecting the COLAs.
Their measure would also gut the backwards process by which both houses of the Legislature have to reject any pay raise, wherein a "yes" vote really means "no pay hike" and a "no" vote means "show me the money!" That's a long-needed change. It's not perfect, of course, as it puts any pay hikes squarely in the hands of the Legislature, whose members have not always been paragons of self-control where their paychecks are concerned. At least they won't be able to pass the buck onto someone else.
The Democratic bill also would require every single House and Senate member to give up an undefined number of days of pay, which sounds good on the surface, as state employees are also facing the possibility of furloughs. But it ignores that state lawmakers are paid set salaries each year. They're fooling no one.
Both those problems suggest this measure needs work. We'd rather lawmakers focus on just one thing: blocking their raises. There should be universal agreement on that, with everybody in the General Assembly signed on as a sponsor. In times of fiscal crisis, the decision-makers shouldn't come out better than those their decisions most impact. It's a matter of principle. Any lawmaker who won't sign on deserves to feel voters' ire.