Killing pay raises is a good place to start
When his stock is as low as it's ever been, you'd think Gov. Rod Blagojevich would be looking for opportunities to improve his standing with the people of Illinois.
And along comes a very simple and obvious proposition, one being spoon-fed to him by a group of Republican lawmakers.
Blagojevich must pull out his budget machete to hack $1.5 billion from the state spending plan to bring it into balance. A group of Republican lawmakers last week put the governor on the spot, suggesting that a good place to start would be to halt pay raises to legislators and himself.
"It is hard to justify giving members of the General Assembly and other Constitutional officers an increase in pay when you are considering over a billion dollars in spending reductions," read the letter signed by such suburban Republican legislators as Elgin's Ruth Munson, Romeoville's Brent Hassert and Elmhurst's Dennis Reboletti.
"Unemployment is rising, some of our citizens are losing their homes, families are struggling to pay for the high cost of fuel and other daily necessities," the letter reads. "We are in hard times. Illinois families are struggling to balance their own budgets."
On the table are cost of living adjustments that would raise lawmakers' base pay by 3.8 percent. That would bring it to $67,800 from $65,300 for the budget year that takes effect Tuesday. That base pay does not include stipends for committee and leadership posts.
The governor would see a pay raise of $6,500, bringing his salary to $177,500.
And these cost of living raises are separate from the plan for double-digit raises that are scheduled to take effect later -- unless lawmakers vote to turn them down.
It would barely make a dent in the deficit, but at the very least it would serve as a gesture to those who pay those salaries that our representatives are truly understanding of the tough economic times that many of the people of this state face … and are willing to slog through it with us.
Of course, not everyone in the General Assembly will let go of the raises willingly. Chicago Democratic leadership already has expressed concerns.
The governor will have a hard enough time deciding where else to trim. On the chopping block is money for education, foster care, veterans' care and help for the developmentally disabled. Lopping raises for lawmakers and himself first should be a no-brainer.
For a governor with no discernible political future to protect, at least he can make a modest sacrifice to show us he cares for the rest of us.
Nice that Republicans have served him up this nice, fat pitch. All the governor has to do is swing.