Illinois lawmakers make sure they'll get paid during government shutdown
Democrats in the Illinois state legislature and Republican governor Bruce Rauner are at loggerheads over a budget for the coming fiscal year, which officially began yesterday. The result of the lawmakers' inaction will be a partial government shutdown.
But don't worry. The politicians in state government made sure they'd get paid before teachers, health care workers, and all the "little people" in the state who are being furloughed or will have their pay reduced.
Remarkably, while workers face layoffs, state legislators won't feel the pinch, thanks to a bill passed last year. It classifies legislator pay as a continuing appropriation — a budget item that state law mandates be funded even in the event of a government shutdown. The bill puts compensating part-time legislators on par with the state's big-ticket items such as debt and pension payments and retiree health benefits.
This bill was pushed through the General Assembly on the last day of the 2014 spring session, with full support from Democratic supermajorities in both chambers. Supermajorities who owe their place in the debacle that is Springfield to the millions of dollars they receive to fund their campaigns from state worker unions. The same state workers who are jeopardized by the budget impasse.
But, hey, no skin off Rep. Kate Cloonen's back. The Kankakee Democrat's paycheck will arrive right on time, thanks to her vote on the bill. Same with Reps. Deb Conroy, D-Villa Park; Mike Smiddy, D-Hillsdale; Marty Moylan, D-Des Plaines; Michelle Mussman, D-Schaumburg; Carol Sente, D-Vernon Hills; and John Bradley, D-Marion. Why run the state and deliver necessary services efficiently when you can win an election? Why protect the lives that people are trying to build when you can make the new Republican governor look like a villain?
A resolution filed by Rep. David Harris, R-Arlington Heights, would tie legislator pay to that of state workers in the event of a shutdown. But it's a Republican resolution, opposed by the same House and Senate supermajorities that put themselves ahead of hardworking Illinoisans.
Governor Rauner was elected largely because he isn't a Democrat, but also because he promised to impose fiscal sanity on the out-of-control Illinois state budget. This he has tried to do, but he is being blocked by Illinois Democrats. The Dems want to raise taxes on the rich, and on businesses, while actually increasing government spending. Rauner, the only grown-up in the room, is going to get blamed for being a responsible leader.
If lawmakers had to endure the same pain that others will be feeling as a result of their political gamesmanship, you can bet that the budget crisis would be solved lickety-split. But since there's no chance of that, expect the crisis to last most of the summer.