Gov. JB Pritzker said Tuesday he’s going to sign the recently completed state budget as is.
That means state lawmakers will get a $1,600 pay raise that is part of the budget and nearly got through the legislature unnoticed.
After an appearance in Chicago, reporters asked Pritzker if he planned to cut money out of the budget that will go toward the pay raises.
“Look, this was a highly negotiated budget,” Pritzker said. “We had the Republicans and Democrats coming to the table, back and forth on this. So I’m going to sign the budget that we put forward.”
Illinois lawmakers are entitled to annual cost of living increases that are pegged to inflation. However, for the last decade the General Assembly has put language into a budget companion bill that rejects the increase.
This year, though, that language was omitted. It didn’t become public until Friday night when Senate Republicans asked about it as the companion bill was being debated in the Senate. The Senate Democratic sponsor of the bill, Heather Steans of Chicago, said she was unaware the legislature wasn’t rejecting the pay raise for next year.
The Senate hurriedly added an amendment to a separate bill calling for the pay raises to be rejected. The Senate voted unanimously in favor of the bill. However, the House never took it up before it adjourned.
Because of that, lawmakers will get a 2.4% cost-of-living increase added to their base salaries of $67,836. The $1,600 increase will push base salaries to $69,436. Most lawmakers earn thousands of dollars more than that, though, because of additional money paid to lawmakers in leadership positions or top committee posts.
It is the first raise lawmakers have had since 2008.
Some lawmakers said that an up or down vote should have been taken on the raises so there would be a record of those who thought they should be paid more money and those who didn’t. Pritzker side-stepped the question when he was asked if lawmakers should have gone on the record.
“I think there are a lot of different opinions about this,” Pritzker said. “I can just say one of the big surprises I’ve had as governor is how hard these legislators are working. They’re working night and day, Republicans and Democrats. I credit them all. They’re away from their families for days, sometimes more than a week at a time as a result of their service. I respect what they are doing a lot.”
Contact Doug Finke at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/dougfinkesjr.