GOP pushes plan to stop paying 'non-essential' services until state budget is balanced
By Zach Buchheit March 22, 2013 12:32PM
Updated: March 22, 2013 12:32PM
ouse Republicans pushed an idea Friday they say "has real teeth" to withhold salaries for the governor, lawmakers and non-essential public services until lawmakers balance the state's budget, which is beset by nearly $9 billion in unpaid bills.
The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Bill Mitchell (R-Forsyth), would amend the state's Constitution to require the auditor general to assess the budget within 30 days of its passage and give lawmakers 10 days to fix the budget if it is declared unbalanced. But no specific ideas were offered in the area of cuts or new revenue.
"If [the auditor general] says expenses exceed revenues, then what happens? We don't get paid," Mitchell told reporters. "Members of the General Assembly don't get paid. Constitutional officeholders don't get paid. Services to the state of Illinois stop except for essential services. All payments besides those affecting public safety required by law or required by the federal government would cease."
Mitchell said he believed schools would still be paid but was not clear on whether public union workers with "non-essential" duties would receive paychecks.
"Remember, we say within 10 days," he said. "Within 10 days is just a mark to say you have to do it by 10 days. It does not mean we can't come back the next day after this declaration and get this done."
"We have a responsibility in the General Assembly to do our constitutional responsibility. That means passing a balanced budget. Other states do it. Why can't Illinois?"
House Republican leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) suggested withholding lawmakers' pay could have an impact similar to current law that withholds "per diem" pay when the Legislature goes into overtime.
"The goal here is to put the pressure on us and to make sure that we perform the job accurately and don't do what we've seen happen over a number of years of not balancing budgets. So the pressure's on members of the General Assembly."
Changing the Illinois Constitution requires a three-fifths favorable vote in both the House and the Senate. Upon approval, voters in the next election at least six months later would have to ratify the measure by either three-fifths of those voting on it or a majority of those voting in the election.