Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Want to Hand Out Raises, Gov? Balance the Budget First

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Pat Quinn’s math isn’t adding up.

    Quinn answered criticism of big raises he’s given to top aides by claiming that he’s cut expenses in the governor’s office by 25 percent since taking office.

    “It’s a leaner group of people, and some of them are given new assignments, challenging assignments, but the bottom line has to be outcome,” Quinn said at a press conference. “I don’t think any agency of state government, at the constitutional level, has cut the budget as much as we have in the last year.”

    How much has quit cut staffing and spending in his office? Quinn claimed he eliminated 10 positions. But according to the Associated Press, the governor’s office has two more employees than it did when Quinn took office. In February 2009, he employed 122 staffers. Now, he employs 124.

    Quinn required all employees to take 12 unpaid furlough days, and cut travel costs by 20 percent. But those savings seem to have been eaten up by the salary increases he’s granted in the last 15 months. When David Vaught moved up from senior adviser to budget director, his salary moved up, too -- from $120,000 to $144,000 a year. Overall, Quinn has given salary increases to 35 staffers, averaging 11.4%.

    “The overall payroll for the governor’s staff and his budget office was slightly lower in May than last July — $123,000 less, or just under 2 percent, according to state payroll records. But other records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that dozens of employees reporting to the governor’s office are paid by other agencies under Quinn’s control,” the AP reported.

    Quinn cut $1.4 billion from the budget last week, but Illinois is still nearly $12 billion in the hole, has the worst bond rating in the country, and was the subject of an unflattering New York Times story about how it can’t pay its bills. Quinn also deferred a vote on borrowing money to meet pension obligations.

    Here’s a proposal: when Illinois balances its budget, then the governor’s staffers can have raises. Until then, they should have their salaries cut by a percentage equal to the state’s deficit. Right now, we’re 36 percent in the red. I’ll bet a 36 percent pay cut would inspire the budget director to come up with a balanced budget in a big hurry.