March 23, Springfield: Late Thursday afternoon, a Cook Co Judge ruled that Illinois legislators must be paid, and that the Executive Branch cannot hold back their pay despite the fact the state does not have a budget in place.
Former State Comptroller, Leslie Munger (R), who is now a Deputy Governor, began the practice of paying lawmakers late when she was Comptroller, by making them wait for their money — just as everyone else owed money by the state had to wait.
Prior to her action, lawmakers were paid on time, while the state continued to rack up billions of dollars in a backlog of bills owed to hospitals, schools, universities and state vendors.
Now lawmakers are waiting as long as six months for their paychecks. For some, who have side income, it’s not a major problem. But for a lot of lawmakers, their state salaries are their only source of income. One lawmaker in Chicago, recently resorted to becoming an Uber driver to have SOME income coming in to pay bills.
Late last year, a group of lawmakers filed suit that they should be paid on time, and that the Comptroller was violating the separation of powers to be withholding the lawmakers salaries.
When Comptroller Leslie Munger lost her bid for election, the state’s new Comptroller, Susana Mendoza (D) continued the policy of putting lawmakers paychecks to the back of the line of those awaiting payments from the state.
But late today, Judge Rodolfo Garcia, issued a ruling on the lawsuit brought by lawmakers. In ruling in favor of the legislators getting paid on time, the Judge cited a 2014 law, that was passed after then Gov Pat Quinn, ordered lawmakers paychecks withheld over a dispute he had with them not passing pension reform.
Comptroller Mendoza’s office planned to comply with the order, not seek a stay to allow time for an appeal, and was reportedly already directing that paychecks for lawmakers be processed immediately, and that they be paid for their six months of salary due them. Lawmakers are paid approximately $70,000 annually.
While not seeking a stay of the Judge’s order to pay lawmakers, it is reported that Mendoza would seek an appeal of the order. So lawmakers, who have not been paid since last June, will be getting their pay in the near future, but whether they continue to be paid on time in the future, remains to seen.
This afternoon, former Comptroller Munger issued the following statement, “”Today, we witnessed the ultimate act of self interest – lawmakers putting their very own paychecks ahead of taxpayers, vital human services and those in need. For more than two years, lawmakers have failed to do their job and now believe they should be paid for doing nothing. As the judge said last week, if lawmakers did what they were sent to Springfield to do and passed a balanced budget this wouldn’t be an issue.
“Rather than immediately releasing all the back pay, the Comptroller should request independent counsel and ask for an immediate stay of the ruling pending her appeal. The fact the Comptroller didn’t immediately request a stay is further proof that the Comptroller, Attorney General and Speaker Madigan are engaged in a coordinated abuse of taxpayers.”
Attorney Michael Kasper, who is a former House Counsel to House Speaker Madigan, was the attorney representing the lawmakers in their suit.