SPRINGFIELD - Republican nominee for governor Bill Brady routinely missed votes throughout the General Assembly's spring session, and the Bloomington senator now says he won't accept any state mileage, hotel or meal money for those days.
Brady campaign spokeswoman Patty Schuh said it was a "personal decision" Brady had been weighing for some time. Brady's missed votes recently came under scrutiny after a Daily Herald story revealed that he had missed more than 200 votes in the hectic final weeks of the legislative session.
In a letter to Senate staff obtained by the Daily Herald via the Freedom of Information Act, Brady says he doesn't want any reimbursement for "any 2010 Legislative Session Days on which I missed any vote on the Senate floor."
Upon further review of voting records, the Daily Herald found Brady missed votes on 25 different session days this year - most of which occurred after he was named the Republican nominee in March. The Senate has been in session 43 days so far this year, though on some days no votes were taken.
Lawmakers get $139 each session day to help cover housing and meals in Springfield. Brady's missed votes could cost him $3,475 in expense checks.
When asked, Brady's campaign was unaware of how many days he'd missed votes and said Brady had directed state Senate staff to compile the information. "The onus is now on them," Schuh said.
Brady makes more than $78,000 annually as a state senator. Meal and housing money, along with mileage reimbursements, are in addition to the state salary.
The state's current backlog of unpaid bills is more than $6 billion, and therefore lawmakers - like everyone else doing business with the state - still haven't received their travel checks for the spring session. Lawmakers last received expense checks in early May, but those were for session days last October.
Schuh said Brady's decision to forgo expense reimbursements shouldn't be seen as an admission the senator hasn't fulfilled his duties as an elected official. She noted that casting votes is only part of Brady's job as a senator, and he's still working on behalf of his constituents.
"In order to run a credible campaign for governor, you have to be on the trail," Schuh said.
But Paul Green, a political science professor at Roosevelt University, said voting is the most important part of being a lawmaker.
"You get elected to vote on issues," he said. "There are only 59 senators who can vote. There are a lot of people who can give speeches."
Lawmakers recently voted to cut their travel allowance for housing and meals to $111. Additionally, they moved to reduce their mileage reimbursement - currently 50 cents per mile - to 39 cents. Lawmakers and state officials also would take a dozen furlough days and lose a cost-of-living raise.
Meanwhile, Brady's Democratic rival, Gov. Pat Quinn, was criticized earlier this year for using taxpayer dollars for campaign purposes when he spent the weeks preceding the heated Democratic primary cutting swathes of ribbons and announcing millions of dollars worth of constructing funding. After the primary, Quinn didn't make a public appearance for more than two weeks.
Heading into the general election, Quinn could once again arm himself with the state's $31 billion construction program, supplying a near endless schedule of ribbon cutting and funding announcements through key campaign months.