--Munger's Sunday sermon to Illinois Lawmakers and state-wide elected office-holders
In an unusual Sunday morning, sparsely attended (but big news) press conference (2 print correspondents, one radio correspondent, one blogger/TV show political interviewer and five local news cameras) on the 15th Floor of the Thompson Center in the Chicago Loop, Republican State Comptroller Leslie Munger yesterday informed the 177 IL state representatives and state senators, as well as her five peer state constitutional officers, that she was ending the prioritization of payment of their monthly paychecks.
The compensation invoices for Speaker Madigan, Senate President Cullerton, Republican Senate Leader Radogno, Republican House Leader Durkin and the 173 other state lawmakers will be processed monthly, but they will have to wait to receive their pay, just like the others receiving state funding. The same will be true for Governor Rauner, Attorney General Madigan, Treasurer Frerichs, Lt. Gov. Singuinetti, Secretary of State White and, of course, Comptroller Munger.
--Waiting two months or longer for paychecks and increasing the State's bill backlog to more than $10 billion
Currently, the backlog for state vendor payments is about two months. Thus, said Comptroller Munger, State lawmakers and state-wide officeholders, whose next paychecks are due to go out on April 30, will probably not receive their checks until late June. If the payment and State revenue situation worsens, as expected over the summer, the checks will be received in the third month, or later, after the due date.
The Comptroller reminded those present that Illinois is in the 10th month of trying to function without an appropriated budget. She said, “As a result, we are paying 90% of the state’s bills under court orders, consent degrees and statutory requirements. Many of those court orders do not have spending caps, which has put the State on track to spend 1.2 billion dollars more than Fiscal Year 2015 while bringing in 5 billion dollars less in revenue [reflecting an additional half year in which the individual tax rate reduction was in effect, as well as the State not yet receiving "Fund Sweeps," in Fiscal Year 2016]. That means the State is on pace to bring on another 6.2 billion dollars in debt this year (the Fiscal Year 2016 deficit), which will worsen the State's fiscal position, exacerbate cash flows and lengthen the state payment delays.” Adding the 2016 deficit to the prior backlog of bills will result in a more than $10 billion bill backlog.
The Comptroller continued, “Without a balanced budget, we have no limits on spending and we are promising spending that we have no means to pay for. This is [hurting] families, social service providers, higher education, municipalities and businesses throughout our state."
--State providers to the most in need who are going out of business
Comprtroller Munger noted, “About ten per cent of the organizations who have received state funding in the past cannot legally be paid without a budget in place because they are not covered by a court order or a state statute. These include the non-profits that provide services for mental illness, the homeless, victims of sexual assault and autistic individuals. These are organizations of great value to the state because they provide services to those most in need at a fraction of the state’s cost [If the state provided the services, itself] . Further, our state universities and community colleges are facing the reality of not re-opening in the fall. And, many of these entities are seeing their credit ratings in danger. More than 130,000 college students still have not received promised monetary assistance program funds or MAP grants for the fall or spring semesters. There is the real possibility of these students not returning to classes in the Fall.
Yet, against this backdrop, said the Comptroller, “State legislators and constitutional officers have been getting their monthly checks on time, while state providers of goods and services have to wait a minimum of two months for payment [unless expedited due to severe hardship]. No more, that is not fair”.
The State Comptroller did not say so, but it appears that IL State employees have been receiving their paychecks on time and will continue to do so. Why, you might ask, should state employees be given priority over state vendors and lawmakers? This reporter will ask that question at the next opportunity.
--Does the Comptroller agree with Governor's budget/reform strategy
Indeed, this reporter wanted to inquire of the Comptroller as to whether she agreed with the Governor's strategy of not compromising on revenue and spending for the Fiscal Year 2016 budget until some of the Governor's Turnaround Agenda reforms are agreed to by the Democratic Party leadership.
However, the Comptroller's eight minutes of answering questions was terminated before this question could be asked by this reporter. So, he asked the Comptroller's Communications Director after the press conference if he could get an answer to that question for inclusion in this post. As of the time we went to press this morning, no such response had been received.
--We are all in this together
The Comptroller noted that the annual cost of state legislative and state constitutional officer salaries is small [$15.6 million] relative to total state spending [Fiscal 2015 GRF budget of about 37 billion dollars], but her newly announced policy “may prevent some state provider employees from being laid off or keep a critical state program going. “
Comptroller Munger emphasized, “We are all in this together and we will all wait in line for payment together.”
--Munger acted alone, but with advice of legal counsel
The Comptroller claimed she did not discuss her decision regarding the lawmaker/Statewide office-holder checks with Governor Rauner, who appointed the Linsolnshire Republican to replace Judy Baar Topinka-- who passed away shortly after winning the State Comptroller election in November, 2014.
Comptroller Munger said she received word from her legal counsel late Friday afternoon that it was ok for her to take this action, so she decided to announce it as soon as she could. She said her staff informed the Governor's staff of the decision a few minutes prior to the press conference and she had received no comments or feedback from the Governor. The Comptroller said she had not discussed her decision with anyone outside her staff.
Ms. Munger, who is the only IL statewide elected official up for re-election in November (facing Democrat, Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza), said her action was not punitive, but that “If it helped to bring all sides together to focus on the most urgent and important task at hand, that of passing a balanced budget-- so we can end this unnecessary and devastating hardship on our state, then that will be an added benefit. Illinois needs a balanced budget. It is well past the time that we should [have had one].”
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