Lawmakers of Illinois approved of a pay hike for themselves in June, which they are now collecting. Cost-of-living adjustments were a part of a 2019 budget bill. However, a state representative protested and returned his increase. Working together with Comptroller Susana Mendoza, David McSweeney managed to turn down the raise and invest it back into the state.
He was opposed to introducing the budget implementation plan, which was an addition to the state’s budget. One of the reasons is that the plan didn’t include any statements that would strictly forbid cost-of-living adjustments for lawmakers. McSweeney claims that all those who voted in favor of the plan were essentially voting for a salary increase for themselves. His efforts went in the opposite direction, trying to cut legislative pay as he believes legislators should lead by example.
The least sizable raise a legislator can receive under the new plan is $1,600. The sum of the increases will cost taxpayers an approximate of $280,000.
Since it’s illegal for constitutional officers or lawmakers to turn down their wage directly, McSweeney had to cooperate with Mendoza in undertaking the task. He explains that since the law reads “should,” you actually have no choice but to take it.
McSweeney criticized the Governor of Illinois, J.B. Pritzker, and the other four legislative leaders, saying they ran a victory lap around the budget and infrastructure bills. This victory lap, as he explains, was made at the expense of those paying taxes and claims there’s no reason for such a thing. He and numerous other lawmakers have decided to refuse their pensions to send a message that they don’t wish to participate in underfunded systems.
Susana Mendoza’s spokesman, Abdon Pallasch, claimed that the state was happy to receive any bit of help it could and that anyone getting their cost-of-living adjustments is more than welcome to get rid of them by placing it into the General Revenue Fund. Pallasch added that they’d be happy to assist with anyone willing to do that. However, none of the state lawmakers seem willing to take on that project.
McSweeney commended the Mendoza’s office for working to return the funds legally. Those that represent the four legislative leaders either weren’t free to comment or claimed they hadn’t communicated with any of the lawmakers about returning their wage increases.
The importance of the discussion regarding pay hikes might be exasperated in August when hearings about a lawsuit two ex-legislators have made will take place. They claim that refusing pay hikes like this one could be considered against the constitution. If they prevail in the case those who are or were lawmakers could reap the benefits of years of added pay. Those receiving pensions would also be entitled to increases based on the rise of the current salary.