* First, a little background from the Bloomington Pantagraph…
State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka defended the raises for members of her staff during a stop at an animal shelter in Normal Wednesday morning.
A Chicago-based nonprofit group, the Better Government Association, criticized Topinka for providing raises of at least 3 percent to 56 employees.
“This is a small raise and we’re not talking about huge amounts of money,” she said. “Plus, we are down on our headcount by 24 people and $1.5 million.”
The raises for nonunion staffers were also based on an effort to create more parity with the unionized work force. Under existing contracts, those raises were set at 4.5 percent.
“I had all of these folks who for years have been working, working, working and I didn’t want to have to force them to join a union to get a raise,” she said.
* Now, on to the editorials. The Champaign News-Gazette…
We’re broke, but here’s a raise
In Illinois, budget belt-tightening has a whole different meaning than is generally understood.
With the state effectively bankrupt, should top state elected officials be handing out pay raises to their staffs? […]
Here [is the reasoning]: The raises were given because employees took on new, more serious duties; the pay raises were given as a matter of equity because the employees had been previously underpaid; and the raises were given to nonunion employees because union employees had received raises.
Those explanations are reasonable. What’s unreasonable is handing out any raises in these offices when the state is effectively broke.
A floundering private business could never get away with this kind of money management. In the private sector, having no money means having no money. In the public sector, that doesn’t seem to be a problem — at least not in Illinois.
* State Journal-Register…
This is a bit like the class valedictorian and student council president getting caught phoning in a bomb threat as a prank on their high school. Here we have the lone Republican constitutional officers, the ones who have preached fiscal responsibility to the point of advocating combining their offices to save money, doing the very thing that so drives taxpayers and good government groups crazy. […]
Sure, we get the excuses: Pay equity. Promotions. Adjusting for new duties, etc. But some of the raises handed out by Rutherford and Topinka seem at most excessive and at the very least, tone-deaf.
It doesn’t help public perception that news about these raises arrives only with help from the Freedom of Information Act or by good-government groups sifting through state data.
All the excuses in the world aren’t going to do anything to assuage voter anger, especially since some voters haven’t had raises in many years, and in many cases have seen pay and benefits shrink. Add in the fact that we are paying more taxes to help the state out of a fiscal crisis, and this move isn’t going to do anything to stem the ire when terms are up.
* Beloit, Wisconsin Daily News…
Across the state line, the insanity continues. […]
The ill-timed raises demonstrate the obvious. Illinois’ leadership — pardon our gross misuse of that word — clearly is constitutionally incapable of exercising sound fiscal judgment.
Who knows? Maybe their rationale is to rake in a few final bucks before the state’s entire fiscal house of cards collapses. Chances are it’s too late to save this spend-happy state anyway. […]
Failure for years to deal with known problems landed Illinois in this fix. The only solution, eventually, may be the humiliation of bankruptcy. Really.
* Northwest Herald…
Giving pay raises to state workers demonstrates political tone deafness. That was the case when Quinn did. It’s still the case now that Rutherford and Topinka have done it.
* Belleville News Democrat…
They all have excuses and explanations for the new jobs and the big raises. But no way should they be doing this in the midst of a fiscal crisis. They’re supposed to be leading us out of this mess, but instead they are adding to the problem.
* The Question: Are editorial boards overreacting to these raises for non-union employees? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please. Thanks.