Lawmakers miss two paychecks so far during budget war

State lawmakers and top elected officials have missed their last two paychecks as the Illinois budget war continues, and they might not get their April payment until July.

April was when Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger decided to put legislative paychecks into the same long line for payment as everyone else waiting for payment from the state.

Lawmakers, who have feuded with Gov. Bruce Rauner and each other for more than a year over how to make a budget, get paid at the end of each month, so they're now waiting on their April and May checks, Munger spokesman Rich Carter said.

How long is the line?

Here's some perspective.

On Monday, Carter said Munger's office had 53,752 vouchers awaiting payment. The state pays them as it gets more money in.

By Wednesday, that number had risen to 74,852, and Illinois was on track to pay bills about 48 working days late, he said.

Paychecks for lawmakers and statewide officials like Munger are in there somewhere, making up a little more than 350 of those checks.

She held a news conference Thursday, saying, "The facts are that our social service network is being torn apart."

Going forward

House Speaker Michael Madigan canceled his chamber's scheduled meeting this week even though he's been calling the House's work "continuous session" since last year.

One consequence of "continuous session" is that lawmakers over the summer won't receive their $111 per diem payments, Carter said.

Madigan made a point of making that clear last year, saying a "special session" would require those payouts. Another summer without a state budget, and the same rules apply.

Staying home

Munger faces Democratic Chicago City Clerk Susanna Mendoza in November's election and said Thursday she'll likely be skipping the Republican National Convention, the Sun-Times reports.

Rauner and U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk of Highland Park have previously said the same.

"It is not on my schedule to attend the convention at this time," Munger said.

She noted the July convention would come in the opening weeks of the new fiscal year, which, so far, the state is set to start without a budget in place.

"I'm really focused 100 percent right now on my duties to the state," she said.

Déjà vu

Rauner this weeks took reporters' questions and was asked about a quote from last year when he said "crisis creates opportunity."

He responded: "I did not create this crisis. This was created by Speaker Madigan's majority."

It reminded us of a line from former Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who when talking about his effort to cut pension benefits and save the state money a few years ago said, "I didn't create the problem."

On Edgar

During that news conference, state Rep. Ron Sandack, a Downers Grove Republican, stepped in to answer a question on Rauner's behalf about the latest criticisms by former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar.

Here's what Edgar said at an event this week: "Now I think the next good thing he (Rauner) ought to do is set aside the Turnaround Agenda until they get a real budget done."

That agenda is the package of proposals Rauner has pushed, including a property tax freeze. Democrats haven't gone along, arguing the governor's plans shouldn't be a part of budget talks.

Sandack argued the state is in a different position now than in the Edgar years and that a backloaded pension payment plan signed by the former governor helped cause some of Illinois' money troubles.

"While I respect the governor, I don't think ... Gov. Edgar is helping out with some of the commentary," he said. "In the absence of reform, we get nowhere."

Edgar first made similar comments last October.

Construction concerns

A group of business and union leaders joined together Thursday to suggest at least part of the summer road construction season could be in jeopardy as the state continues to argue about spending.

Illinois Chamber of Commerce CEO Todd Maisch told reporters the state's inability to pay for the work after July 1 could be a serious problem.

Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman Guy Tridgell said the agency isn't planning to stop any projects at the moment.

Stay tuned.

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