Proposed legislation puts mandatory furlough days back on the table


STATE REP. Katherine Cloonen, D – Kankakee, recently introduced legislation that would force Illinois legislators to take 12 unpaid furlough days each year

By Brady Cremeens
Illinois News Network

KANKAKEE – One Illinois lawmaker wants to reinstate a package of pay reduction for elected officials in the state.

State Rep. Katherine Cloonen, D – Kankakee, RECENTLY INTRODUCED LEGISLATION that would force Illinois legislators to take 12 unpaid furlough days each year — a rule that was instituted in 2011 after passing the General Assembly, then done away with in this spring’s legislative session.

Lawmakers essentially gave themselves a raise of $3,100 annually when they voted to eliminate the 12 unpaid furlough days, which had cost them a hair short of five percent of their salary on average.

The fiscal and economic crises in the state deem now an irresponsible time for Illinois senators and representatives to take home more money, Cloonen said.

“We need to tighten our belts,” she said. “It’s time for the lawmakers in the state to lead by example. We shouldn’t be giving ourselves a raise in our financial situation. It’s not like a lot of workers in the state are getting raises right now.”

Without the 12 unpaid furlough days, the average Illinois state lawmaker receives just short of $68,000 annually. That amount was closer to $65,000 for the past three years under the rule. Legislators who also chair a committee receive about $10,000 on top of their base pay. There are more than 25 Senate committees and 45 House committees.

Illinois state representative and senator jobs are considered part-time.

In May when the furlough rollback WAS BEING DEBATED IN THE LEGISLATURE, State Rep. Ron Sandack, R – Downers Grove, called reinstating the base pay “ridiculously bad policy and bad for Illinois.”

Sandack’s line of thinking mirrors Cloonen’s.

“We should have kept the furlough days and left the pay were it was,” he said. “The state’s finances are hurting.”

STATE REP. MARY FLOWERS, D – Chicago, stood firm against the idea that the state’s financial struggles should keep legislations from taking home more money.

“We were not responsible for the economy going down. We are not responsible for the loss of jobs or increasing prices on education and food,” she said. “We deserve a pay raise because we work hard and serve our communities proudly. I make no apologies. If we were keeping in concert with inflation, this pay raise should actually be much higher than it is.”

Cloonen’s bill will reinstate the 12 unpaid furlough days for a period of two years, to be re-evaluated at that time.