Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A little late on payment delays, but is it better than never for Illinois?

Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger made what I’m sure she wants us to believe is a radical decision, one that shows great political courage on her part.

Because we’re about to finish month 10 without a balanced budget in place for Illinois, she’s going to delay payroll for state legislators and constitutional officers – including herself. After all, if other bills are not being paid, why should the legislators get paid?

IT’S A SOUND theory, and one that will offend the legislators who will claim they did their work. They were the ones who sued when former Gov. Pat Quinn tried to delay their paychecks, and they won – although the state Supreme Court recently ruled that the lower courts were probably wrong in favoring the legislators in that case.

But anyway, we now have the prospect of the General Assembly members not receiving their legislative salaries – all to make some sort of point about the current financial situation where the unpaid bills are now in the billions of dollars.

I’d be willing to respect Munger for doing this, except that I think she’s ridiculously late. And it is her delay in taking such action that has caused the total of unpaid bills by state government to climb so high!

If anything, I wonder if she’s really trying to pressure legislators into breaking with Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, and siding instead with Gov. Bruce Rauner?

I THINK WE’RE beyond the point where anyone is going to change their stance Although if there had been a cut-off of pay back last year when this situation was just beginning, perhaps the threat of a lack of income would have been enough to scare political people into a serious compromise mode.

By now, political people are too hard-headed. It would probably take more than this to shift support from one side to the other.

Although it did come off as greedy all those years ago when the legislators defied Pat Quinn when he threatened payment of their salaries. But it comes off equally greedy now to cut them off for partisan reasons.

Besides, the simple fact is that the payroll for our General Assembly is just over $1 million per month. Something like $14 million for the year.

WHEN YOU CONSIDER that unpaid bills are at $7.8 billion and growing, the Legislature’s payments are nowhere near enough to close the gap.

This really is a move meant to irritate the Legislature with its solid Democratic Party majority that gives Republican Rauner no chance to prevail on his desires to impose several measures meant to undermine the influence of organized labor over state government.

Or perhaps it should be described as his desire to bolster the influence that big business and corporate America has over this state.

I’ll be the first to admit that Madigan is more than capable of being a hard-head whose primary concern is to ensure that his political authority over the Illinois House of Representatives is not challenged. It wouldn’t surprise me if on some level, he’d be willing to consider some of the suggestions that Rauner has made.

IF ONLY THE governor had asked a little more respectfully, perhaps? Or if this issue hadn’t started out as the need to undermine the current ways of doing things, just to benefit big business?

This budgetary situation is literally going to have to be resolved by the two of them. I don’t think it’s possible to drag the individual legislators in. They’re going to follow orders (whether Democrat or Republican) to the very end.

So as for Munger, who a year ago resisted the idea of delaying the payments of state employees of any kind because of the lack of a budget, she may think she’s being noble by now threatening to hold the legislative payroll to the letter of the law.

But it really comes across as, “Too little, too late!”


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