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Past Due: Budget Hits Lawmakers In Their Wallets: Paychecks To Go Out, Months Late

Anxious legislators will once again see a deposit from the state of Illinois in their bank accounts. They’re getting paid Tuesday for the first time since July, when their April paychecks came through.

Illinois doesn’t have enough money in the bank to pay all of its own bills. As a result, the comptroller’s office is way behind paying businesses contracted to do work for the state.

The backlog of overdue bills is approaching $8 billion.

A lot of money, to be sure. But what does that even mean? Maybe the best way to measure it is how often legislators themselves are getting paid.

In a move some suspect is an election-year play, Comptroller Leslie Munger, a Republican, is making sure lawmakers’ monthly paychecks go to the bottom of the stack with other bills.

Now that September is nearly here, their May paychecks have reached the top. Paying all 177 of them runs Illinois more than $1.1 million each month.

Better late than never. When all is said and done, legislators will get their annual salary of at least $67,000 a year.

Having to wait several months for a paycheck has been a struggle for legislators who aren’t independently wealthy, and who don’t have jobs outside the General Assembly. Some have borrowed money, including from their campaign accounts; one legislator is driving for the ride service Uber.

They’re going through what companies and social service agencies with state contracts have been experiencing for years. Some shut down waiting on the state to make good on its contracts.

The comptroller’s spokesman says legislators June paychecks will probably get paid in October.

Amanda Vinicky moved to Chicago Tonight on WTTW-TV PBS in 2017.
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