Would your employer pay you if you didn't do your job for weeks, or even months, at a time?
Let's be real. The vast majority wouldn't.
In fact, many of us would get shown the door before our lack of production reached into measurable weeks, let alone months.
So why should we pay those who work for us when they don't do their jobs?
Sadly, many of our own employees are telling us they don't plan to do much of anything this year. By "our own employees," I mean public employees, those paid with taxpayer dollars — more specifically, elected Illinois state lawmakers.
There's a growing sentiment under the dome in Springfield that, because of a number of factors, the 2018 legislative session scheduled to start later this month is going to be a throwaway one.
As in, why should they even bother showing up.
Majority legislators already received their $5 billion income tax increase. They approved a budget last summer for the first time in more than two years, even though it's unbalanced despite the $5 billion in new tax revenue annually.
And, most significantly, this is an election year, a big one at that.
Vulnerable Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner faces a primary challenge from Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, after a disastrous 2017 in which he signed separate pieces of Democrat-pushed legislation that make Illinois a sanctuary state for illegal immigrants and allow taxpayer funding of elective abortions. A handful of members of his own party joined majority Democrats to override his veto of the massive tax increase. And he infamously admitted publicly that he isn't "in charge."
Powerful House Speaker Michael Madigan, the person who apparently is in charge, also will be trying to hold on to his Democrat majority so he can be rubber-stamped to an 18th term as his chamber's leader.
In recent days, many lawmakers told Illinois News Network that, given what is expected to be among the most contentious and certainly most expensive gubernatorial elections in Illinois history, they don't expect to accomplish much of anything this year. Some, particularly on the Republican side, even suggested that would be a good thing.
"Generally speaking, the less we meet the less damage can be caused," Rep. Joe Sosnowski, R-Rockford, told INN this week. "I think the less that the state legislature does, the better."
The General Assembly has, in fact, done more harm than good for, well, quite a while now.
Illinoisans paid the highest combined local and state taxes in the nation before last summer's income tax hike. As a result of that tax burden, more residents are fleeing Illinois than any other U.S. state.
Despite Rauner's and job creators' pleas, the General Assembly has done nothing to help reduce the state's highest-in-the-Midwest workers' compensation costs, which are driving well-paying manufacturing jobs elsewhere as well.
And then there's the pension crisis. State officials say Illinois' five public pension systems are underfunded by $130 billion. But actuaries maintain the pension debt probably is more than $200 billion when more realistic rates on investment returns are used to calculate it. Yet legislators sit on their hands and hope the insurmountable debt goes away on its own.
Given Illinois' mountain of fiscal problems, legislators doing nothing in 2018 would be a dereliction of duty.
"I think that’s the conventional wisdom now, that nothing will get done," state Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, said. "But that's not what the people of this state want."
McSweeney — an outspoken critic of the governor despite sharing party affiliation — says, bare minimum, a few things have to be accomplished in the upcoming session: Rauner and lawmakers have to determine a way to pay for $2.8 billion in unappropriated spending from last fiscal year. And they need to drastically reduce overall spending so a balanced budget can be passed for the next fiscal year. The spending cuts must come through meaningful pension reform, Medicaid reform and other reductions.
Doing nothing is not an option.
"We don’t deserve to get paid if we don’t pass a balanced budget and cut spending,” McSweeney said.
Lawmakers are paid a base salary of $67,800 annually plus benefits for what already is part-time work. The state's median household income was just under $60,000 in 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
I agree with McSweeney.
Lawmakers need to do their jobs this year or not get paid. And then voters should fire them.