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Lawmakers kill pay raises
By John Patterson | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 8/13/2008 12:04 AM

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SPRINGFIELD - A nearly 12 percent pay raise for lawmakers and other leading state officials was rejected Tuesday.

The Illinois Senate voted 47-0 to decline the raises, which were on the verge of taking effect automatically had the Senate not voted them down.

With the raises, lawmakers would have been making $73,000 to $100,000 next year. Gov. Rod Blagojevich would have seen his pay climb by more than $20,000 to about $192,000 a year.

But the pay hikes would have come at a time when Democratic-controlled state government has ground to a halt amid personal and political fighting. The House already voted to reject the raises, but state law requires the Senate take the same action or else everyone gets the increase.

"I personally don't think this is the right time for a pay raise," said state Sen. Rickey Hendon, a Chicago Democrat who'd previously been outspoken in his support for those increases.

Had lawmakers been able to come to agreement on state-sponsored construction and other key issues, Hendon said he'd support higher salaries.

Once the proposal got to the Senate floor Tuesday, it was a slam-dunk, especially with elections around the corner.

"Our role is to send a message to the taxpayers of Illinois," said state Sen. Susan Garrett, a Lake Forest Democrat who led the effort to reject the raises and suffered personal and political criticism from her Democratic colleagues.

While the Senate finally resolved the pay issues, there was no action on the topic of education funding, which is what the governor had ordered lawmakers back to the Capitol to address. Blagojevich offered lawmakers no plan to consider and did not attend either the Senate or House sessions.

The House met for only a few minutes before adjourning Tuesday.

"It is clear this is not a serious attempt to solve the state's problems," added state Rep. Jack Franks, a Woodstock Democrat, of the governor bringing lawmakers back to the Capitol.

"Today's a joke," added House Republican leader Tom Cross of Oswego. He blamed Blagojevich in particular but six years of Democratic control in general. "You've done absolutely nothing."

The governor has ordered lawmakers into another special session today to address construction spending, but no action is expected.