Positively Naperville: Springfield’s Dirty Little Law

Hidden in the Illinois State Statutes is a dirty little law that guarantees legislators an automatic annual cost of living adjustment (COLA). Our State Constitution also prohibits changing a legislator’s pay during the term they are serving, so if we want to reject our pay increase, we must pass a bill in the General Assembly PRIOR to the term when we wish to freeze salaries.

Every year legislators file bills to reject the next year’s COLA and they are routinely supported by nearly all members. This year’s bill was filed, but never called for a vote. There is a law suit currently pending that seeks to rule the approved COLA rejections as unconstitutional because the votes to freeze pay took place during the wrong timeframe. That’s another column for another day.

Because the bill to “freeze” pay was not called prior to adjournment this year, my July 15 legislator paycheck included the COLA. I am opposed to automatic pay increases and believe they should not be baked into the statutes. Especially during this time of complete dysfunction under the dome, the last thing lawmakers deserve is a raise. In light of the law suit, I’m drafting legislation to prohibit automatic pay hikes for lawmakers. We should have to take the uncomfortable step of increasing our pay through a public vote.

To remedy this year’s automatic COLA, I have decided to make a donation to a local non-profit each month that is equal to the amount of my pay increase. In July, I made a donation to Loaves & Fishes in Naperville. Loaves & Fishes Community Services is a 501(c)(3) organization that has served our community since 1984. They aim to end hunger and transform lives by providing healthy food and impactful programs that promote self-sufficiency. It is an incredible organization that makes a real difference in the lives of thousands of local families.

August’s donation went to Little Friends, a local organization that does amazing work to enrich the lives of individuals living with autism and other developmental challenges. Founded in 1965, Little Friends has grown to a multi-faceted human services agency operating three schools, vocational training programs, community-based residential opportunities, and the Little Friends Center for Autism. Little Friends serves more than 800 people each year throughout nine counties and 45 school districts across northern Illinois and Indiana.

Several of my Republican colleagues are also donating their raises this year to local non-profits in their districts. It’s a sensible solution that counteracts the political games being played with your tax dollars.