By Chinta Strausberg
Reaction to Illinois Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger’s threatening to withhold state lawmakers paychecks was mixed late Sunday night with Cook County Comm. Richard Boykin (D-1st) saying, “No budget, no pay.”
While explaining that collectively the paychecks, amount to $1.3 million per month, or an average of $67,836, will still be processed, Munger made it clear that they won’t get their checks on time due to the state’s unpaid bills—a tactics blamed on the lack of a budget after 10-months of failed negotiations.
Appearing on WVON’s “Bob Shaw” show produced and co-hosted by this reporters, Boykin, who is pushing passage of his $50 million Community Stabilization and Anti-Violence Act said, “In Springfield, we have a state of emergency. There is a crisis…a paralysis in Springfield, 10-months without a budget. People should not be paid,” said Boykin. “No budget, no pay.” “It’s not a novel idea…not a new concept. Ordinary people who don’t get their work done, don’t get paid. Citizens can understand this.
“It’s been 10-months and everybody is getting paid. It’s almost as if you don’t have a crisis of not having a budget. Bills have been paid…late…racking up additional cost to taxpayers…$20 billions in debt that Springfield has allowed schools districts to run up which is unconscionable.
“Banks are making money off the backs of school districts. CTU being forced almost in a sense by Springfield because of the inaction to almost file bankruptcy or face the fact that the union is going to strike. The children are being held hostage,” said Boykin. “It’s a wrong approach and County government has to stand up and do what we can to help stand in the gap especially in the area of public safety,” He urged the Cook County Board to pass his jobs bill.
But, while Boykin is concerned about the escalating violence and the economic impact from this crisis, Munger has a bigger problem. Facing a $6 billion deficit, she admitted she wants lawmakers to feel the pain of not being paid on time like many of the vendors and hopes it would spur them on to a budget compromise.
However, her threat of withholding their paycheck didn’t faze some of the Black Caucus members for they’ve been through this scenario before with Gov. Pat Quinn who withheld their pay, but the courts ruled against him forcing the release of their paychecks.
When contacted late Sunday night, Senator Mattie Hunter (D-3rd) said, “Comptroller Munger is setting priorities as she should. I remain focused on working with my colleagues on a big picture solution to bridge this budget impasse that has gone on too long and created too many victims.”
But, Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-8th) saw through the political chicanery of Munger’s press conference held on Sunday. “I think that her press conference was purely political. It should have been about the need to fund higher education, money for social programs or for the health care for state employees. It should have been for calling on the governor and the general assembly to give her revenue to pay the bills” and not to withhold their paychecks.
Saying the Democrats have been doing their jobs all along, Rep. Ford said, “Last week we passed a $4 billion appropriation bill that pays for human services, and higher education….” That legislation is now on the governor’s desk. “It is going to take both Democrats and Republicans” to resolve the budget impasse, said Ford.
Making it clear, Ford said, “The Democrats are doing what we’re suppose to do. We are trying to keep the government afloat. Had it not been for the Democrats, we would not have funding for childcare, “Meals on Wheels,” LIHEAP…. It’s been the Democrats who are fighting through the system that the governor has laid out to hold the budget hostage for his turnaround agenda,” Ford pointed out.
“Our jobs are to come to Springfield but also to be responsive to our constituent requests.” Ford accused the governor’s office of “failing the state…constituents are calling us about the social services checks, treatment in prisons, lack of funding for higher education and aging programs for our seniors all under the direction of the governor,” said Ford.
“If our offices are closed, that means the governor will have to take care of it. Our constituent services are outreach (efforts) to assist the governor. To say he is not willing to fund the state is ridiculous….”
“Quinn held our checks hostage but the courts agreed he had to pay them. This comptroller knows better,” Ford stated.
“We need more revenue. It will be unlikely if we have a budget soon, which is why we have to work to keep government operating. “People still buy gas. They still buy food…so revenue is still constantly coming in; however, we have to prioritize how to spend that money until we get a budget,” warned Ford.
But one thing is for certain, according to Ford, “We are paying corrections. The jails are being taken care of but the schools are suffering.”