Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger announced on Aug. 17 a “No Budget, No Pay” bill that would link the salaries of state lawmakers to one of their most important duties: passing a balanced budget.
Under Munger’s proposal, Illinois lawmakers would need to pass a balanced, full-year budget in order for state constitutional officers and lawmakers to receive their paychecks.
Illinois has not passed a truly balanced budget since 2001.
In April, Munger threw lawmaker salaries in with the rest of the state’s $8 billion bill backlog. Up to that point, state lawmakers were getting paid on time despite Illinois’ lack of a state budget.
In fact, Illinois state lawmakers enjoy levels of pay protection not granted to any other body of state government.
That’s due to a 2014 bill rammed through the General Assembly by Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton. The bill exempted lawmaker salaries and operating expenses from the annual appropriations process. In other words, those payments became “continuing appropriations,” which means they must be specifically prohibited to stop money from flowing to politicians. They’re also immune from year-to-year cuts.
No other office or agency of Illinois state government enjoys that privilege. Continuing appropriations are typically reserved for expenditures such as pension payments, debt payments and interest payments.
Illinois lawmakers aren’t used to being treated like the rest of the state.
They earn base salaries of nearly $68,000 for what is essentially part-time work. When health care, dental care and pension benefits are included, taxpayers cough up an average of$100,000 per active Illinois lawmaker.
And yet, some have publicly complained about not receiving their pay on time, even as years of fiscal recklessness have led to extreme payment delays for state vendors, and a lack of pro-growth reforms has led Illinoisans to suffer under the second-slowest income growth in the nation.
While details on its implementation are slim, Munger’s proposal could serve as a combination of two needed reforms: a real balanced-budget requirement, and returning lawmaker pay to its status as an annual appropriation.
She has not yet announced which member of the General Assembly will introduce the bill.