Pritzker to sign legislator pay raise in state budget that some say is unconstitutional

(The Center Square) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker says he will sign the Illinois state budget that looks to spend $50.6 billion next fiscal year, including the pay raise state majority Democrats approved for themselves. Some question whether the pay raise is constitutional.

Pritzker has been touring the state, talking up more taxpayer funds for education, infrastructure and new programs like an early childhood education initiative and programs to address homelessness and so-called grocery deserts.

At a stop in Quincy, he defended increasing pay for legislators.

“It seems like an enormous bump to have one year where you’re going up 17% as happened I think last year, but it was in part because literally pay had been frozen,” Pritzker said.

Earlier this year, during lame duck session for the 102nd General Assembly, base pay for legislators was $72,906 a year. A supplemental appropriation approved before Jan. 10 started the 103rd General Assembly base pay at $85,000. The budget soon to be on Pritzker’s desk for the fiscal year that starts July 1 increases the base pay to nearly $90,000.

State Rep. Mike Coffey, R-Springfield, was with Pritzker last week in Springfield at a budget news conference touting increased higher education funding. He explained why he did not support the spending plan, which included Republicans being kept out of negotiations.

“When I decided to take the office, I think the salary was $68,000. After I was appointed, it went to $85,000 and then I’ve been in office three months and they moved it to $89,000,” Coffey said. “So that was one of the big sticking points for me personally.”

During early morning debate on the budget last month, House Minority Leader Tony McCombie, R-Savanna, said the raise to nearly $90,000 base pay is on top of a raise legislators approved for themselves earlier this year.

“This raise is in direct violation of the Illinois Constitution. A raise can only take effect the next General Assembly,” McCombie said. “You have created a constitutional problem with this budget.”

Article IV, section 11 of the Illinois Constitution dealing with the legislature states, “A member shall receive a salary and allowances as provided by law, but changes in the salary of a member shall not take effect during the term for which he has been elected.”

Regardless, Pritzker said he will sign the budget.

“There are things in the budget that I don’t love and things in the budget that I proposed and think are the right thing to do like funding our universities and community colleges,” Pritzker said. “You look at it as a totality and make a decision as governor about whether to sign it and I intend to sign this one.”

The Illinois Constitution states the governor may reduce or veto any item of appropriations sent to his desk. Any such item vetoed “shall be returned to the house in which it originated and may be restored to its original amount in the same manner as a vetoed bill except that the required record vote shall be a majority of the members elected to each house. If a reduced item is not so restored, it shall become law in the reduced amount.”

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