Illinois continues to operate without a state budget. Very little movement has been made, except to release some funding to Illinois universities last week. Some blame the Republican Governor; others blame the Democrat-controlled General Assembly. Recently, a bill was introduced to "punish" House and Senate members by withholding their compensation until a budget is passed. HB 6551 provides, in pertinent part, as follows:
Beginning in 2016, and for each year thereafter, if the General Assembly fails to pass a balanced budget by June 30th of each year, the compensation provided in this Section to be paid to members of the General Assembly, including the additional sums payable to officers of the General Assembly, shall be withheld until a balanced budget is passed.
This legislation has plenty of problems. First, it is pretty unlikely that a majority of the House and Senate members will even approve it. Second, the proposed legislation does not take into account the protections provided to state legislators in the Illinois constitution. We reported on these protections a couple of years ago when the Illinois Governor vetoed state appropriations for legislators' salaries. You may remember that shortly after the veto, a number of legislators sued the Governor, and the Illinois court found the Governor's veto unlawful under the Illinois constitution.
Specifically, Section 11 of Article IV of the Illinois Constitution (the constitutional article that relates to the state legislature) states that "changes in the salary of a member shall not take effect during the term for which he has been elected." While the purpose of this provision was to prevent legislators from giving themselves raises during their terms, it seems reasonable to interpret "changes in the salary of a member" to include a suspension or withholding of members' salaries during their term. As a result, this particular bill is probably not constitutional, and would certainly be subject to challenge if it were passed (which, if we are perfectly honest, is quite unlikely) and then invoked.
Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf