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Munger says she’ll work to freeze pay unless budget passes

Comptroller Leslie Munger speaks at Governor's Day at the Illinois State Fair. Sun-Times Media.

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger — who faces a tough election this November — said at a Governor’s Day State Fair rally on Wednesday that she’ll work to freeze legislators pay until a “balanced, full year budget” has passed.

Lawmakers’ paychecks have already been delayed, but not entirely suspended, due to the year-long budget impasse that saw some resolution in July in the form of a stopgap budget to fund the state through the year.

But Munger — who faces Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza in the election – told a crowd of Republican officials and supporters that all constitutional officers and members of the General Assembly should “wait in line for our pay like everyone else.”

“I’m not stopping at this. There’s more I can do. Today, I’m introducing legislation which I am calling ‘No budget, no pay.’ That’s the way it works. If the General Assembly and the governor can’t agree and pass a budget, then they don’t get paid. It’s just that simple.”

Munger said her plan would include no retroactive pay, as well: “The longer it takes for them to pass a budget, the longer it takes for them to get their job done, the more pay they lose.”

This has been tried before. In 2013, Gov. Pat Quinn sought to do the same. Quinn vetoed out legislative pay from the state budget, saying it would be suspended until the Legislature sent him a pension reform bill. Both Illinois Senate President John Cullerton and Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan sued on the basis that Quinn’s act was unconstitutional.

Munger said she’ll start a petition to get the plan as a constitutional amendment should it not make it to the House floor. “It very well might not because it would have to go through the speaker,” she said.

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Asked who would carry the bill, Munger said the details were still being sorted out. Munger said, however, she does have bipartisan support for the bill, which she claimed to have when she suspended pay.

But not all were on board. On the last day legislators met before passing a stopgap budget, Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, objected to the idea of waiting to be paid.

“I know this is something that many of us think is taboo. We shouldn’t say. But as legislators, we should get paid for the work that we do,” Lightford said on the Senate floor.

Munger said withholding pay has helped California: “What a surprise. They pass budgets on time that are balanced.”

April paychecks were paid out in early July; May paychecks will go out at the end of August and June paychecks will be paid out in October, she said.

“The longer that bill backlog gets, the longer it takes for us to get in line to get paid and get in line with everyone else,” Munger said.