Herald & Review

Quinn's staff need to 'share sacrifices'

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn apparently believes that his own staff is immune from the "shared sacrifice" he says is necessary to address the state's horrific financial situation.

At the same time he was planning on spending cuts of $1.4 billion and talking of "shared sacrifice," he was handing out raises to his staff. Some of those pay increases were more than 20 percent.

According to an analysis of records obtained by the Associated Press, Quinn gave out 43 salary increases, averaging 11.4 percent, to 35 staffers in the last 15 months.

Those raises included a $24,000-a-year bump for Budget Director David Vaught, who received the 20 percent increase when he moved from senior adviser to budget director.

Quinn defended the raises, saying he'd cut spending in the governor's office by 25 percent since taking office 17 months ago. Quinn's staff said spending was down 10 percent in the budget year that just ended, and they plan for another 25 percent reduction this year.

The governor also said that many of the raises were deserved because of promotions, additional duties or changes in the workload. Some of the raises, however, were merely "salary adjustments." A Quinn spokesperson said those raises were based on "re-evaluated work output, additional duties and overall performance."

Politically, the raises are bad news for Quinn. Inside the Capitol, Quinn has been trying to convince lawmakers to raise taxes or to approve a pension borrowing plan in order to ease the pain of the state's $13 billion deficit. Lawmakers have been reluctant to do that and will not be happy to learn that while they were being pressured to make unpopular moves, Quinn was handing out raises.

Also, this is an issue voters can easily grasp. Pension funding borrowing can be complicated, but voters understand that it's wrong to hand out raises inside the office and ask for "shared sacrifice" outside the office.

The raises also illustrate how out of touch Quinn is with the real world. In many businesses across the state, people have lost jobs. The employees remaining had taken on "additional duties or changes in the workload" without any increase in pay. In some instances, employees are doing more work for less pay.

Quinn should be congratulated if he has reduced spending in the governor's office. What the governor doesn't understand is that in a financial crisis, every possible dollar that can be saved must be saved.

To get out of this financial crisis, the state needs leaders who understand they can't be the Grinch in public and Santa Claus to their own staff.