CHICAGO -- Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today asked the state’s judges “to think about the public good” and to drop their lawsuit that gives themselves a $13 million pay raise.
“The issue here isn’t whether judges can win a technical argument inside the courtroom. The issue is much simpler – it’s a question of right and wrong,” Blagojevich said. “I’m respectfully asking the judges to step outside the courtroom for a moment and ask themselves these questions: Is it right to sue for a $13 million pay raise at a time when some of our school districts can barely afford textbooks? Is it right to sue for a pay raise at a time when tens of thousands of children go without health insurance? Is it right to sue for a pay raise at a time when the threat of terrorism is as real as ever, and the challenges of keeping the people of this state safe require more resources than ever before? Is it right to sue for a pay raise at a time when the taxpayers – ordinary, hardworking people – are struggling to get by?”
“Now is not the time to spend the state’s scarce resources on higher salaries for governors, legislators, and judges. In times like these, all of us in public service – governors, legislators, judges – need to lead by example.”
A close examination of the complaint filed by the judges seeking higher pay revealed that granting the judges’ request would cost the taxpayers nearly $13 million – not the approximately $3 million the judges have publicly claimed.
In Count 1, paragraph 16, of their complaint, the judges allege that they are entitled to receive "the full amount of their salaries, including the fiscal 2004 COLA, and to have their salaries adjusted accordingly." In Count 2 of the complaint, the judges allege that they are entitled to receive the cost of living adjustments withheld for the fiscal year 2003 and to have their salaries adjusted accordingly. If the judges succeed on both counts, they would receive a total pay raise of $12,908,405.
The Fiscal Year (FY) 2003 3.8% COLA would cost taxpayers $4.7 million as a result of a salary increase for FY 2003 that would be retroactive to July 1, 2002. The FY 2003 salary increase would then be added to the judge’s base salary in FY 2004, costing taxpayers an additional $4.7 million. The FY 2004 2.8% COLA, applied to the increased base salary in FY 2004 caused by the FY 2003 COLA, would generate a salary increase of $3.6 million – a total of $12,908,405.
“Associate judges currently are paid $122,247. Circuit judges are paid $136,546. Appellate judges are paid $148,803. Supreme Court judges are paid $158,103. Is now really the right time to ask the taxpayers to spend nearly $13 million to increase those salaries?” asked Gov. Blagojevich.
“We’re determined to balance the budget in these difficult times by continuing to reset priorities – not by raising taxes and not by sacrificing our values,” Blagojevich said. “There’s a finite amount of money. We have to focus the resources we have on the right priorities. So if the judges prevail in court, that means nearly $13 million that cannot go to the things that really matter. It means $13 million that cannot go to early childhood reading. It means $13 million that cannot be used to help local communities purchase fire trucks. It means $13 million that cannot go to Kid Care or SeniorCare. And that’s just not right.”