Illinois Statehouse News

Quinn Defends Staff Raises, Defers on Borrowing

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

CHICAGO – Last week Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said the state is going to have to tighten its belt, and then trimmed $1.4 billion from the new state budget.

On Tuesday Quinn downplayed the fact that in the same budget he handed-out pay raises to some of his top staffers.

An Associated Press report indicates the governor’s office rewarded a number of top officials with pay increases. Budget director David Vaught, for example, received a $24,000 raise to bring his salary to $144,000 a year.

Quinn said Vaught has earned it.

“He got a new assignment, the budget director, it’s one of the most important jobs in state government. So it has a different salary, yes it has a higher salary. But over all the amount of money spent by taxpayers on the governor’s office is significantly lower today.”

But Republican lawmakers say that’s not what voters will or should see. State Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine, said the governor needs to listen to his own words when he talks about tightening the belt.

“People are hurting out there, and this is the kind of thing that infuriates them. Not so much for the dollar amount, but for the example.”

The governor said countered the criticism, saying his office has been doing a lot more with a lot less. And Quinn said he doesn’t think it’s fair to blast him as a spendthrift because some of his top people saw their salaries go up.

“I think this person or that person [and] saying they got a raise, well a lot of them got different assignments. They have more challenging work to do. They had to replace someone who maybe left government, and they have to take that job on that’s maybe a different job. ”

But the AP report states that as governor, Quinn handed out 43 pay raises to 35 different people over the past 15 months. The average raise according to the AP came in at 11.4 percent.

Murphy said Quinn has to answer for more than a year of spending.

“You’ve got service providers out there that are starving out there and you’re giving out 20 percent raises? It’s another unfortunate example of an inability to lead.”

A statement from Quinn’s opponent in the November election, Bill Brady, echoes Murphy’s criticism.

Brady said “Today’s revelation shows there are two rules under Governor Pat Quinn – one for him and the powerful insider crowd, and another for all the rest of us.

While working families are tightening their belts and doing more with less, Pat Quinn is doling out massive pay raises to his own staff – and we’re paying for them. Today’s revelation shows, once again, that Pat Quinn is incapable of solving our fiscal crisis, and has lost control of state government.”

But the governor is trying to flip that around, and is using the announcement that lawmakers will not return to Springfield to okay a pension borrowing plan until after the election as his springboard.

“The General Assembly doesn’t have a lot of fortitude when it comes to raising revenue or making cuts. They’ve made that crystal clear for two years…The General Assembly doesn’t want to do anything very challenging” Quinn said.

Murphy said the General Assembly did handle the budget challenges, by giving Quinn extraordinary powers to manage the state. Now he said Quinn needs to do it.

“The governor has substantially more power…to manage the funds of the state than any governor going back at least 25 years. The bottom line is this is an opportunity for Gov. Quinn to show he can manage the state’s budget,” said Murphy.