In May I voted against a Democrat-sponsored bill that would guarantee automatic cost of living adjustments (COLA) for members of the General Assembly and state-wide office holders. Unfortunately, in spite of unanimous opposition by House Republicans, SB1354 was approved by Democrats in the House and Senate. In FY16, this law was scheduled to grant pay hikes to lawmakers for $1,356 to $1,905, in addition to their existing salaries and stipends.

On Wednesday, July 1, Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has declined to accept a salary for his service as Governor, used his amendatory veto power to strike out the automatic COLA increase for elected State officials and lawmakers. The veto also freezes the lawmakers’ “per diem” daily expense money and travel mileage. The Governor’s action on SB1354 will be effective through June 30, 2016, unless overridden by the General Assembly.

The Governor’s veto message reads in part: “A balanced budget requires shared sacrifice. My Administration has reduced State personnel costs among agencies under my jurisdiction by $4 million during the first four full months (February through May) of this year, compared to the same period last year.

“I recommend that Senate Bill 1354 be changed to eliminate raises for legislators, elected officers of the Executive Branch, and agency directors and other highly compensated State officials, and to freeze the per diem amount and mileage reimbursement rate. Budget implementation bills must give us the tools to implement a balanced and realistic budget, and this change is an important step in closing our budget deficit. A similar provision has been enacted for each of the past six fiscal years.”