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Legislative Action

'No' to pay hikes; 'yes' to COLAs


Illinois legislators rejected a 14.6 percent pay raise for themselves, judges, constitutional officers and department heads, but they accepted automatic yearly cost-of-living increases beginning on July 1, 1991. About 1,200 state officials will receive cost-of-living allowances (COLA) based on federal inflation statistics, with a maximum of 5 percent. The first increase will be July 1, 1991.

The state Compensation Review Board had recommended both an immediate 14.6 salary increase for state officials and the 1991 implementation of annual COLA increases. Lawmakers said "no" to the immediate increase but "yes" to the future boosts. Legislators saw as exorbitant the large salary increase proposed by the board that recommends state officials' salaries. Senate President Philip J. Rock (D-8, Oak Park) sponsored the COLA, which he called a more "reasonable response."

The COLA will cost $810,530 for each 1 percent increase. At the maximum of 5 percent, the first-year increases would amount to about an additional $4 million compared to the $10.7 million price tag for the first year of the board recommendations.

The Senate president called the inflation-based increases "long overdue" and urged their acceptance over an outright rejection of any increases offered by Sen. John A. Davidson (R-50, Springfield). Among those to back Rock's plan on the Senate floor was Sen. Arthur Berman (D-2, Chicago), who argued pay raises were needed to attract quality people to state government. "How many employees could you hire in your businesses back home if you said, 'You're not going to get a pay raise for three, four, five years?' " Berman asked.

On June 13 the Rock plan passed the Senate by a 34-23 margin after overcoming opposition from Republicans led by Minority Leader James "Pate" Philip (R-23, Wood Dale), who opposed any increases. Ten Republican senators voted for Rock's proposal.

Republican Sen. Davidson offered a proposal to reject both the board recommendation and cost-of-living increases. "Here we are at a very budget-crunching time, reducing the budget by half a billion dollars, and here you are wanting to raise salaries for 1,000-plus employees of the state," Davidson said during floor debate. "This is unconscionable in my mind."

After his plan passed, Rock advised the Senate not to send "mixed" signals to the House and to vote present on Davidson's proposal. Davidson's motion fell 10 votes short of the required 30, with a vote of 20-12 and 22 senators voting present.

By law, the House and Senate must adopt an identical resolution to reduce board recommendations. The recommendations take full effect unless the legislature changes them or both houses reject them.

Rock's plan was expected to pass when the lower chamber considered it on June 15. House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-30, Chicago) had told Rock that he thought the COLA had enough votes. House Minority Leader Lee Daniels (R-46. Elmhurst) backed the COLA, calling it a "reasonable approach to pay salaries." Still, in the midst of upcoming elections and a tight fiscal year, the plan narrowly escaped with a vote of 60-54, with 40 Democrats and 20 Republicans voting for it.

"I don't think it's a good message to send the citizens." said Rep. Tim Johnson (R-104, Urbana), who introduced a resolution to reject all of the Compensation Review Board report. "We're having to cut in a number of areas in state spending, and I think we ought to set an example for the people we represent."

"We're looking for $16 million for our rural health package." said Rep. Karen Hasara (D-100, Springfield). "It seems unfair for me to be looking out for myself when I'm looking for other good causes."

If officials receive the full 5 percent in the first year of raises on July 1, 1991, the base pay of senators and representatives would go from $35,661 to $37,444. The pay of the governor elected in November would increase from $93,266 to $97,929. Supreme Court justice salaries would rise from $93,266 to $97,929; circuit court judges would see their salaries go from $80,099 to $84,103.

Illinois legislators had received four pay raises between 1975 and 1988. The first raise in 1979 was for 25 percent, the second in 1980 for 12 percent, the third in 1985 for 16.1 percent and the fourth in 1988 for 9.7 percent. The average annual pay raise for legislators over the 13-year period was 4.54 percent. Legislators' salaries rose 78.3 percent during those 13 years, while state employees' pay rose 149 percent. The average pay for private-sector employees rose 117.1 percent between 1975 and 1988 in Illinois and 120.3 percent nationally.

"If members of the legislature and other elected officials can be placed on the same footing as almost every other state employee, I think that is moderate and reasonable." Madigan said.

"I think it's way too little and way too late," said Rep. Lee Preston (D-3. Chicago). "This is a cost-of-living allowance that will take effect a year from now so then it'll be five years without a pay raise at all. That pay raise ties to salaries of some outstanding members of the House, Senate and executive branch, all of whom could spend their time more profitably for themselves and their familes in some kind of other endeavor."

Rep. Loleta Didrickson (R-37, Flossmoor) changed her vote from no to yes to provide the needed 60th vote. "It was the only game in town and they needed the 60th vote," she said. "They were having difficulty getting the vote, and I wasn't against the pay raise. I was against how it was put together." She said she originally voted no because certain board members would receive the same raises as judges and legislators. She said members of the State Board of Elections and the State Labor Relations Board may hold other jobs while drawing salaries between $30,000 and $50,000 for monthly or quarterly board meetings. She said she favors per diem payment for those board members and political appointees like Court of Claims judges. She also favors merit pay over cost-of-living increases.

The approval of the COLA increases has some observers wondering what the future role of the Compensation Review Board will be. Madigan said he doubts the board will recommend more across-the-board increases. Instead, it will probably make recommendations for salary adjustments to individual and new positions, he said.

40/July 1990/Illinois Issues

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