Illinois’ comptroller cannot delay paying the salaries of state lawmakers during the ongoing budget impasse, a Cook County judge ruled Thursday afternoon.
Democratic Comptroller Susana Mendoza won a bitter campaign last year against her predecessor, Republican Leslie Munger. But the two agreed on one idea that was popular with voters: Lawmakers’ salaries should be delayed to free up money for other vital government services as the budget stalemate dragged on.
Six state representatives sued Mendoza, arguing the comptroller doesn’t have the discretion to delay their paychecks.
Cook County Judge Rodolfo Garcia ruled Thursday in favor of the state representatives, saying Mendoza does have to pay up.
A spokesman for the comptroller said lawmakers were recently paid for their work completed in July 2016. He said there is already $8.6 million on-hand that was not targeted for other payments in anticipation of the judge’s possible ruling.
In a statement, Mendoza said she’ll comply with Garcia’s decision, but plans to ask her attorneys to appeal.
“I have always argued that there is a sound policy reason, given the absence of a balanced state budget, to prioritize payments to the state’s most vulnerable – hospice care; child care; meals on wheels for seniors – ahead of paychecks for elected officials,” Mendoza said.
In response, Munger, who now is Gov. Bruce Rauner’s deputy governor, echoed recent accusations that Rauner has made — that Mendoza is colluding with top Democrats and “are engaged in a coordinated abuse of taxpayers.”
“Today, we witnessed the ultimate act of self interest — lawmakers putting their very own paychecks ahead of taxpayers, vital human services and those in need,” Munger said.
Tony Arnold covers state politics for WBEZ. You can follow him at @tonyjarnold.