Munger to delay pay for state leaders
Pay for Illinois General Assembly members and constitutional officers such as the governor and attorney general will be delayed because of the ongoing state budget stalemate, Illinois Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger announced Sunday.
The state is in its 10th month without a budget, causing a $7.8 billion bill backlog. What bills are being paid are the result of a patchwork of court orders, consent decrees and statutory authorizations, according to a statement from Munger's office Sunday.
With families, social service organizations, schools and businesses waiting months for promised payments from the state, Munger said Sunday it is appropriate for elected leaders to face delays as well.
"Our social service network is being dismantled, mass layoffs are occurring and small businesses across Illinois are awaiting payments for services they've already provided," said Munger, who announced the delays at news conference in Chicago. "As our cash crunch grows in the coming months, it is only appropriate that the unfair prioritization of payments to elected leaders ends. We are all in this together, we all will wait in line."
Salaries for the state's six constitutional officers and 177 legislators total approximately $1.3 million a month, or $15.6 million annually, according to Munger. The elected leaders are customarily paid on the last day of the month.
Munger said her office will still process the vouchers monthly, but the warrants will then wait in a queue with other payments before being released when cash is available.
"It is the right thing to do," Munger said. "And if this action helps bring all sides together to pass a balanced budget and end this unnecessary and devastating hardship to our state, that is an added benefit."
In 2013, then-Gov. Pat Quinn stripped lawmakers of their paychecks to try to get them to approve legislation cutting teachers' and state workers' pensions.
In the end, courts ruled against Quinn, and lawmakers didn't approve that pension plan for months. Courts rejected the pension plan, too.
State Sen. Terry Link, a Vernon Hills Democrat, said courts have ruled to keep the state payroll going and that Munger's move is an attempt to put pressure on lawmakers in his party.
"All they're trying to do is trying to put the onus of everything on our shoulders right now," Link said.
The announcement from Munger, who was appointed to the job by Gov. Bruce Rauner, comes as both sides have come under increasing pressure from colleges and universities that haven't been paid since last June and social services providers who also have gone without.
For example, the state owes Allendale Association -- where a 16-year-old died last month at its Lake Villa campus -- at least $2 million.
Munger said that before taking this step, she consulted her legal staff to make sure she could do it. But she said she didn't discuss it with anyone else, including Bruce Rauner.
Last year as the state budget impasse began, state Reps. David Harris of Arlington Heights and Elaine Nekritz of Northbrook said they wouldn't take a paycheck if state workers weren't going to get paid. Ultimately, courts ruled Illinois should make its payroll without a budget in place, and the state has continued to largely operate since.
Harris said Sunday he thinks Munger's move is the right one and should have happened earlier.
"There's got to be pressure brought to bear," he said.
However, Nekritz questioned the timing. She said Munger's decision could be seen as "punitive" and as a result won't be productive.
"Why now?" she said. "Why wasn't this decision made when the impasse first started?"
• Daily Herald news services contributed to this story