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Taxpayers saved from $10 million hit after Illinois Supreme Court rejects lawmaker pay hike case

(The Center Square) – In a win for taxpayers, the Illinois Supreme Court unanimously rejected a lawsuit from two former lawmakers over pay increases they voted down but later sued to obtain that could have cost state taxpayers $10 million.

The case from former state Sens. Michael Noland and James Claybourne is years old. Noland filed the lawsuit in 2017, shortly after leaving office. Claybourne signed on shortly after.

When they were in the state legislature, they voted against annual pay increases for legislators but later sued to get paid the difference, claiming not getting the annual pay raises violated a provision on lawmaker pay in the Illinois Constitution. The case made it to the Illinois Supreme Court where Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza was the defendant.

“And the court ruled against these two senators continuing to try to fleece taxpayers and ruled most importantly in favor of Illinois taxpayers,” Mendoza told WMAY. “So yesterday was a big win for the little guy.”

The unanimous ruling issued Thursday said “plaintiffs cannot now be allowed to challenge the reductions in their salaries during their previous terms in office.”

Mendoza said if the former Democratic lawmakers would have won, it would have been expensive for taxpayers.

“This could have cost us over $10 million if they would have won and I would have had to pay all legislators who voted year-after-year-after-year to not take their cost of living adjustment,” Mendoza said.

The lawsuit they filed to get paid the raises they voted down shows how disingenuous they were, Mendoza said.

“They said that this was shared sacrifice, that it was the right thing to do, that we should not be taking raises when there was an economic collapse and people were hurting, you remember through the Great Recession,” Mendoza said.

The state’s high court took note of that, Mendoza said.

“They also used it in all their campaign literature which the Supreme Court made note of and said they in fact benefited [politically] from cheating, or essentially misleading, they said, the taxpayers as to what their intentions were with these raises,” Mendoza said.

The average lawmaker salary is around $70,000. They get an automatic cost of living increase unless lawmakers specifically vote that down in the annual budget.

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