* Dan Petrella at the Tribune…
The state of Illinois must pay two former Democratic state senators salary hikes they voted to reject while in office, a Cook County judge ruled late Thursday.
The ruling stems from a lawsuit Michael Noland of Elgin and James Clayborne of Belleville brought against Democratic state Comptroller Susana Mendoza’s office. The senators argued that laws freezing legislative salaries from 2009 to 2016 violated the Illinois Constitution, which prohibits lawmakers from changing their pay during their current term.
Noland, now a Kane County judge, sued in 2017 seeking back pay for himself and “all others impacted” by the eight bills lawmakers passed to give up the annual cost-of-living raises they are automatically granted under state law.
The lawsuit, which Clayborne joined as a plaintiff in 2018, also takes issue with unpaid furlough days lawmakers approved for themselves each year from 2009 through 2013.
Then-Cook County Judge Franklin Valderrama ruled in July 2019 that the state constitution is “unambiguous” in prohibiting such action.
Comptroller Susana Mendoza pledged to appeal the decision and called the former lawmakers “shameless grifters” pursuing a “brazen money grab.” […]
The decision Thursday applies only to them, not other lawmakers who were in office, because they filed the lawsuit as individuals, not public officials, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Noland could get about $71,000, while Clayborne is in line for $95,000.
Ironically, Clayborne voted in favor of turning down the raises. Noland voted against the legislation only once, the Tribune reported.
* Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie on the day of the ruling…
“Today’s court ruling, which essentially allows legislators to cast politically popular votes refusing pay increases and then, by judicial fiat, receive those pay increases anyway, is yet another vivid example of why Illinois citizens do not trust their state government. Illinoisians are growing increasingly weary of politicians saying that which is popular, while at the same time finding a path to benefit themselves and harm taxpayers.
“The votes of past General Assemblies to refuse pay increases were policy decisions, and not decisions into which the courts should intervene. I call upon the Attorney General and the Comptroller to immediately and vigorously pursue an appeal of this ruling, and continue to fight for a reversal until the taxpayers are vindicated.”
The court is right. The Constitution is clear. Legislator pay cannot be reduced during a legislator’s term of office. It’s the same sort of thing with pension reductions. Legislators were playing games, just like they did last year when they didn’t appropriate legislator pay raises even though legislator pay is subject to continuing appropriations. That’ll wind up in a lawsuit some day as well.
One day, maybe they’ll figure out that this stuff always catches up to them.