Illinois House agrees to eliminate FY 2016 lawmaker raises

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 28, 2015 4:41 PM

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The Illinois House on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a bill stopping a cost-of-living increase for state lawmakers in the current fiscal year, which continues to lack an approved budget.

The 101-1 bipartisan vote sends the measure to the Senate, which is scheduled to return to session Aug. 4.

Republican Governor Bruce Rauner has publicly criticized Democrats who control the legislature for allowing their paychecks to grow, while Illinois struggles financially.

Despite the near unanimous vote, the standoff continues between Rauner and Democrats over a budget for fiscal 2016, which began July 1.

House Speaker Michael Madigan, who sponsored the bill, said despite making "a good faith effort to meet the governor half way," the impasse continues. He said the bill follows other actions by the House to accommodate some of the governor's so-called turnaround agenda, which includes worker compensation reforms and a local property tax freeze.

"We are involved in a historic struggle between two branches of government," he said on the House floor.

The bill removes a $1,350 per legislator pay increase, saving the state $238,950. Following the vote, Rauner's office released a statement making it clear that he is still pushing for structural reforms. Last month, he vetoed most of the $36 billion budget passed by Democrats because it was short about $4 billion in revenue.

Illinois has a chronic structural budget deficit, as well as the lowest credit ratings and worst-funded pension system among the 50 states.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Michael Madigan's daughter, is keeping the state's options open regarding a 2013 cost-saving pension reform law voided by the state supreme court in May on constitutional grounds.

Lisa Madigan asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday for an extension until Sept. 10 to file a possible appeal of the ruling by the state's high court, which rejected Illinois' argument that it needed to invoke police powers and cut pension benefits to deal with a fiscal emergency.

"With the decision in the City of Chicago's pension case late last week, we are continuing to consider all of the arguments and the best next step,” her office said in a statement.

A Cook County Circuit Court judge on Friday struck down a 2014 law aimed at shoring up the shaky finances of two Chicago retirement systems. That ruling also cited protections for public worker pensions in the Illinois Constitution.

(Reporting by Karen Pierog; Editing by Matthew Lewis)