Wilhour decries lame duck raises for department VIPs
Newly elected state Rep. Blaine Wilhour (R-Beecher City) thinks the way lawmakers plotted to pass Senate Bill 3531 during the legislature's lame duck session was all about gamesmanship.
“Ramming this through at the last minute made it difficult to mount any kind of opposition to it—business as usual,” Wilhour told the South Central Reporter of the bill that paves the way for state department directors, assistant directors and secretaries to receive a 15 percent raise. “The public was not really aware of what was happening until the bill had already been passed. This was done deliberately. The public response has been overwhelming negative. If the public knew about this ahead of time there would have been immense pressure on lawmakers to vote against it.”
After passing the bill on Jan.8, the Democratic-controlled Congress held onto it until Gov. J.B. Pritzker had officially taken over, virtually assuring that it would become law.
The bill also stipulates that as of July 1, top state employees are entitled to annual cost-of-living increases.
Wilhour branded the move typical Springfield politics.
“How about we pay what we owe to vendors doing business with the state?” he said. “The backlog of unpaid bills continues to stack up. There is nothing wrong with the state providing decent wages for department heads but we also have to look at the state's financial condition. We are not in a position to do this right now, and it sends a bad message to the many, many vendors waiting for the state to pay them.”
Besides being just more of what he calls the same reckless behavior that has gotten the state in such dire financial straits, Wilhour said, he doesn’t see how anything about the bill stands to help the masses.
“This bill is not going to increase the wages of rank-and-file workers,” he said. “This is going to help department and agency heads make more money. They are the highest paid in their respective agencies and now they will be making even more. These are political hires, and so the ones who will benefit are the ones who are the political appointees.”
Wilhour said it’s time lawmakers realize the state can no longer afford what he calls all of their out-of-control policies.
“We have to do better than what has been done in the past,” he said. “We cannot keep ignoring the financial problems facing our state. We need real solutions to the problems we face.”