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Take the Money and Run? Lawmakers Weigh in on Furlough Pay

Updated: Thursday, June 19 2014, 11:24 AM CDT
ILLINOIS -- For five years lawmakers have taken one unpaid day a month as the state battled rocky economic times. But no longer.

Illinois lawmakers did not add in any furlough days for the upcoming budget year. Lawmakers in Illinois receive $67,836 per year as a base salary, along with additional pay for leadership and committee positions. Without the 12 furlough days, lawmakers will get a bump of more than $3,100.

It's something that's not normally seen as popular, especially when so many agencies and organizations are still trying to scrape up money to survive.

A spokesperson for Senate President John Cullerton says lawmakers could not take furlough days this year because of a judge's ruling on a lawsuit over lawmaker salaries.

Whatever the reason, lawmakers will get a few grand more in their pay checks this year, which, especially in an election year, has most local lawmakers trying to get rid of the money as soon as possible.

"To take a time when the state is having financial difficulties, and to put that pay back into our checks to a lot of people is not right," said Rep. Rich Brauer (R-87th District).

So keeping the money could be a bit of a political liability. Rep. Sue Scherer (D-96th District) helped pass last year's bill for lawmaker furloughs, but when news about the furloughs broke, her Republican challenger, Michael Bell, took a few shots.

"Rep. Sue Scherer pledged to cut lawmakers salaries, block raises voted to end furlough days giving legislators a pay raise," Bell wrote on his Facebook page.

Scherer said she had believed the legislature was continuing the unpaid days. In any case, she says she's not keeping the money.

"I intend to give my pay to charity or to give it back to the state," Scherer said.

She's not the only one taking that route. Of the seven lawmakers who represent Sangamon County, five say they're giving up the money. Rep. Rich Brauer (R-87th District), Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer (R-100th District), Sen. Andy Manar (D-48th District) and Sen. Sam McCann (R-50th District) all said they plan to donate the money, too.

"Probably make some charitable donations," said McCann. "And the rest of it I'll probably use to drive around this great big district."

Only Rep. Raymond Poe (R-Springfield) said he plans to keep the money. Poe said he already donates his per diem pay.

"I'm telling you I'm already doing $6,000 a year before we got this," Poe said.

Poe said he believes there's a misunderstanding about the furlough pay being reintroduced.

"Well I'm not getting a pay raise. We're not getting a pay raise," he said. "Our base salary is the same. They took that out of our (pay). That's why I think we're getting mixed up here."

Sen. Bill Brady (R-44th district) did not respond to Newschannel At Nine's request before airtime.

Though lawmakers are not taking pay cuts this year, they aren't technically raising their salaries either. Lawmakers voted to prohibit a cost of living adjustment for their pay.Take the Money and Run? Lawmakers Weigh in on Furlough Pay

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