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Senate back in action Wednesday

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SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Senate Wednesday may consider cutting its own pay and limiting organizaing rights for some state employees.

By Benjamin Yount

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Senate Wednesday may consider cutting its own pay and limiting organizaing rights for some state employees.

"Once you open the doors, anything could happen," said State Rep. Kevin McCarthy, D-Orland Park.

Lawmakers are returning to reauthorize Illinois' $31 billion construction plan. The state Senate tried to tie the road, bridge, and school construction package to $430 million in new spending on education and human services, but that move failed to find support among Gov. Pat Quinn and other legislative leaders.

The return to Springfield is for regular session, not special session. Illinois lawmakers will not be paid for their return. Had Quinn called a special session, it would have cost taxpayers nearly $50,000 a day with all lawmakers in attendance.

McCarthy said he expects lawmakers to vote on a few issues that have been lingering since the end of the spring session in May.

Legislative pay

Illinois lawmakers are expected to vote to cut their own pay and accept 12 furlough days. It would be the third consecutive year that lawmakers have approved a pay reduction.

"I (am) not complaining, but I am coming to Springfield on my own dime to cut my pay again," said state Sen Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline. "Even after the last time I cut my pay, nobody back home has said great job."

State Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield, agrees that voting for the pay cuts and furlough days is as much about perception as it is about saving taxpayers' money.

"It's more symbolic to me. If you are going to ask public employees to take furlough days, then the General Assembly should be doing the same thing," Bomke said.

Illinois lawmakers earn a base salary of nearly $68,000 a year. Bomke said the legislative pay cut could save about $500,000 next year. Illinois' deficit is close to $9 billion.

Union restrictions

Quinn is ready to try again with legislation that would limit union participation for a number of mid-level and managers at some state agencies.

He said Monday that he is still pro-union, but he wants to have the power to manage his administration.

"I fervently support the right to bargain, the right to form a union," said Quinn. "But at the same time, there have to be some positions in government that are management positions."

Quinn said he wants to draw a "reasonable line" that would set limits on union membership.

According to the governor's office, 95 percent of the state employees are union members.

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