ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — State lawmakers voted to give themselves a pay raise, which took effect on July 1st, but one Rockford representative thinks they shouldn’t take it.
Rep. Maurice West (D-67th Dist.) filed a bill asking his fellow lawmakers to opt out of the pay raise, and instead put it toward the growing pension debt in the state.
“The last thing we need to worry about is how much money we’re making, especially when this is a part-time gig,” West said.
Signing letters to his fellow lawmakers, West is asking them to opt out of their new pay raise, which was part of a spending plan which was passed in May.
“I’m not even requiring the legislators to do it. I’m not saying we must do it. I’m saying, you have the option to put your increase somewhere else. You have the option to personally contribute to our deficit, in some way, shape, or form,” West said.
The pay increase is $1,600 for each of the 177 lawmakers in the Illinois General Assembly, totally a little over $283,000.
West suggests that money should instead go to the state’s pension debt, currently sitting at $200 billion.
“After the budget impasse that we experienced, this is the time that we should focus on ensuring that the funds spent [are] for the benefit of the people that we represent. Now is the wrong time (to accept a pay raise), and timing is everything,” West said.
Both Senators Dave Syverson (R-34th Dist.) and Joe Sosnowski (R-69th Dist.) both say they plan on donating the extra money.
“Nobody was in favor of increasing the pay and there’s a variety of other reasons why I didn’t vote for the budget, but that was certainly one of them,” Sosnowski said. “It was kind of just snuck in there at the last minute, without a lot of people noticing it.”
Syverson said, “It was the Democrats who filed the lawsuit to get the retroactive pay raises, so I doubt they’re going to turn around and reject them all, because that was the whole purpose of their lawsuit.”
West added, “This is not the time to reward ourselves for the work that we do. We need to work on helping the state first, and then revisit this at a different time.”
Currently, the starting salary for state lawmakers is $67,000 a year.