McConchie Says Pols Should Wait in Line to Get Paid
Vendors who provide goods and services to the State of Illinois are owed billions of dollars, but members of the General Assembly always get paid on time. State Sen. Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods) wants to put an end to that and force legislators, who haven't passed a budget in more than two years, to wait for their checks like everyone else.
McConchie filed an amendment to Senate Bill 0989 that would grant greater discretion to the state comptroller in deciding how to prioritize state payments. The goal is to allow the comptroller to delay issuing legislators' paychecks if there are insufficient funds in the state’s general revenue fund to pay certain other obligations.
"We just had a court rule that legislators need to be paid in advance of other outside entities who are providing important services to the state," McConchie told the Sangamon Sun. "Especially those entities like hospitals and social service agencies that are taking care of the most vulnerable among us."
The ruling McConchie referred to was made on a lawsuit filed in December by six state legislators against then-Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger after she declared that legislator paychecks would not receive priority over other bills. The court ruled against Munger, and current Comptroller Susana Mendoza was forced to begin releasing the overdue paychecks.
"The court ruled that legislators should be paid first despite the fact that we haven't been doing our job, despite the fact that we haven't balanced the budget, and despite the fact that we are $10 billion behind on paying our bills," McConchie said. "This is wrong, and it is vitally important that if we are not going to do our job then we need to be treated like everybody else."
Illinois is in arrears more than $1 billion to at least one of its health care systems, he said, adding that without the ability to successfully balance the state budget and manage its expenses, the state is failing to act in good faith to ensure that organizations that have contracted with the state will be paid.
"This bill is something I found to be fundamentally necessary to put legislators back into the line with everyone else where we belong," McConchie said. “There is no reason why the court should force legislator pay to be prioritized over the hundreds of vendors, providers and agencies who have been waiting months for reimbursement from the state."
Questioned about the amendment's prospects for success, McConchie called on the public to reach out to their legislators to support it.
"It is our job as citizens to say, 'If you're not going to do your job, then you shouldn't be paid before anyone else,' ."