Tuesday, July 30, 2013

We’re approaching lack of a payday

Thursday is the day the members of our General Assembly should be getting their pay for the month of August.

But on account of the fact that Gov. Pat Quinn used his amendatory veto powers to delete the money put aside in the budget to cover legislative salaries for the year, they’re not getting paid.

ILLINOIS COMPTROLLER JUDY Baar Topinka went so far last week as to make a formal statement saying she doesn’t have the authority to cut checks for the General Assembly’s 177 members – although she did strongly imply that she’d be more than willing to pay them if a court were to order her to do so.

It’s probably one of the rare occasions when a government officials WANTS to be sued – irregardless of how a lawsuit would wind up making just about everybody look foolish.

Of course, nobody has come up with a lawsuit against the state. Because it’s one of those things that would make somebody look incredibly stupid and selfish!

Quinn’s motivation for not paying the legislators (and himself, technically) is that the public officials don’t deserve compensation for as long as they fail to come up with a plan to reform the way in which the state pays the cost of the pension programs it oversees.

AS OF MONDAY, there still isn’t a plan for covering the pension costs. And no hints as to when a plan could be ready for legislative consideration.

Who wants to be the person who sues to get paid even though significant work has yet to be complete?

Although the Capitol Fax newsletter has indicated that Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, has had his staff looking into ways that could force legislators to get paid even without a resolution to the pension funding problem.

Regardless, the action that usually would be taking place now to ensure that paychecks that won’t bounce come Thursday is NOT taking place. Legislators are not going to get their monthly compensation.

SOME OF THEM won’t be as impacted because they have other jobs or sources of income – particularly those who are attorneys and are going to have to rely upon their law firm legal fees to cover the cost of the groceries they consume and their mortgage payments for the upcoming month.

But there are those who actually live off the incomes. Some may have financial problems crop up – just like other people who run into unexpected conflicts.

So in that case, the next couple of weeks could turn out to be an educational experience for our legislators.

Not that they’re willing to say so themselves. I have contacted a few legislators in recent days, and NONE of them are willing to comment in any form.

“I’M NOT PUTTING myself in the middle of that,” state Rep. Thaddeus Jones, D-Calumet City, said. He was the most eloquent. The others I spoke to had less to say – as all are afraid of saying something that could offend the powers-that-be.

None of them want to be the target of political payback once this issue gets resolved, and the legislators wind up getting back pay to cover the cost of the money they are being denied this week.

That’s the flaw in the argument being made by some that Quinn acted in an unconstitutional manner by altering the salaries of the General Assembly. He really didn’t.

The salaries on the books for the individual legislators remain the same. They’ll get their money eventually – just like the state workers whose get gets delayed every time the Legislature and the governor get into a political spat and can’t put together a state budget by the July 1 beginning-of-the state fiscal year.

BESIDES, THERE ALSO have been several occasions where the General Assembly uses the backhanded maneuver of approving something, but then failing to provide funding for it – thereby ensuring it won’t happen.

In a sense, the governor has done the same to the legislators, who apparently can now turn to the Credit Union 1 in Rantoul (just north of Champaign) to get loans of up to half of their salaries to help them pay bills in coming weeks – similar to how they help state employees on strike.

So excuse me for not being too sympathetic to the legislators. Even though some are trying to make the argument that Quinn is behaving irresponsibly – creating a precedent for future governors to “strong-arm” the General Assembly to get them to do anything.

“No pay checks until you pass a measure restricting abortion so heavily that it becomes next-to-impossible to obtain!,” they argue we’re going to hear someday.

THAT MAY BE so. It is possible that some future political nit-wit would try something arrogant like that.

Although I’d argue that is the arrogance of the future public official, and not the questionability of the tactic itself.

I also have enough faith in the Illinois electorate to think that if a future governor tried something like that, the public would be so repulsed that the official would suffer severely.

Unlike Quinn in this instance, who seems to be gaining tidbits of support for his behavior in recent weeks!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

irregardless is not a word.