SPRINGFIELD - Despite a state budget that is billions of dollars out of whack, more than 46,000 state workers will see bigger paychecks Thursday.

Judges, prison guards, welfare office workers and mental health specialists will see raises and cost-of-living adjustments worth an estimated $105.6 million.

For some lawmakers, the raises are an example of why the state is in such dire financial straits.

"I just think it shows how Gov. Quinn isn't serious about getting a handle on this problem," said state Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth.

State Rep. David Leitch, R-Peoria, said companies throughout the state have cut back on raises during the economic meltdown and the state should follow suit.

"I think everybody ought to share in the pain," Leitch said.

A spokeswoman for the governor's budget office did not immediately return messages Tuesday.

Quinn is expected to sign the budget handed to him by lawmakers in May on Wednesday and then outline where he plans to cut spending in order keep the state afloat. The first day of the state's fiscal year is Thursday.

The budget calls for Quinn and other top state officials, including lawmakers, to forego raises and cost-of-living adjustments this year.

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That's not the case for judges, who will receive 2.6 percent salary hikes because of a lawsuit they won in 2003.

At that time, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich had sought to block judges from getting automatic cost-of-living adjustments, but the judges successfully argued that Blagojevich's move was illegal.

For unionized state workers, the raises are included in the collective bargaining contracts, several of which were signed before the national economic downturn. Leitch said last year's raises amounted to over $230 million.

The state's largest union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, earlier agreed to defer half of its planned 2 percent raise until July 2011, meaning workers will see a 1 percent bump Thursday.

The workers also have agreed to take more than 11,000 voluntary furlough days for a savings to taxpayers of about $2.5 million. And, AFSCME has been a primary backer of Quinn's call for an income tax hike, saying the state cannot cut its way out of the budget hole.

"Frontline workers who provide essential state services have gone above and beyond during this fiscal crisis," said AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall. "Nothing has been done to raise adequate revenue despite the many countless sacrifices of rank and file state workers."

kurt.erickson@lee.net / 217-789-0865


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