Originally published in the Chicago Sun-Times on July 30, 2015.
On Tuesday, the Illinois House voted on a measure to end what Republicans are calling a “legislative pay raise.” Many who spoke on the issue said that we (legislators) did not deserve a “pay raise.”
For the record, what the House voted to eliminate was a cost-of-living adjustment. The General Assembly has not received a pay increase in several years. In voting against the measure, I maintained that while the position is formally considered part-time, I am a full-time legislator. I work continuously on behalf of my constituents, sometimes seven days a week. The job consists of many duties, including working on state budget legislation.
Speaking of the state budget, this is the most important issue. I stand by my statement on Tuesday that “what we need to be talking about…is the budget — which is not a conversation about workers’ comp, not about term limits and not about a cost of living adjustment. It’s really about the budget and providing services to the residents of the state of Illinois.”
If my Republican colleagues feel that temporarily stopping a cost-of-living adjustment is a victory, then we do have a long way to go. Gov. Bruce Rauner has said that he would be willing to talk about the budget if he gets certain reforms. But spending well over an hour debating over a cost-of-living adjustment gets us no closer.
Any conversation about Rauner’s proposed reforms inevitably will be distinctly different than a conversation about passage of a budget. The budget should not be held hostage to Rauner’s separate agenda.
Let me remind readers of the governor’s own proposed budget, which would drastically cut and eliminate vital services across the board. Therefore, those who felt that passing HB 576 — the bill killing the cost-of-living increase — was going to lead the way to bliss in the State of Illinois have a rude awakening, at least if they have not read the governor’s introduced budget. The governor’s budget makes clear to the people of Illinois exactly how he feels about providing important services.
Mr. Governor, taking the approach of “my way or no way” will not get the job done. I am ready to talk when you are.
State Rep. Will Davis, D-Homewood, has served in the Illinois General Assembly since 2003.