“Some state legislators seem to think they’ll be getting a pay raise this year,” she said. “The answer is: No. They won’t. Here’s how much money the General Assembly appropriated for legislator raises, or cost-of-living adjustments, known as COLAs, in this year’s budget: Zero.”

She emphasized the point by holding up a flashcard with a zero on it.

The confusion comes from the fact that Illinois law automatically increases state lawmakers’ pay unless they explicitly vote not to allow the increase to happen.

Republicans have attempted to change the law so that lawmakers would have to affirmatively vote to hike their pay, something that can be used as a political weapon come election time.

The matter of freezing the pay hikes was also the subject of a lawsuit from two former lawmakers, state Sens. Mike Nolan, D-Elgin, and James Clayborne Jr., D-East St. Louis. The suit they filed against Mendoza’s office in 2019 claims the pay freezes, in addition to furlough days taken during the longstanding budget impasse, weren’t legal and that extra money is owed to them. The case has yet to be resolved so Democrats said they kept the COLA language in place to avoid complicating the suit.

Republicans pounced on this in the days after the budget passed.

“Before Gov. J.B. Pritzker, if legislators wanted to prevent a pay raise, they would repeal that automatic language from the BIMP. They chose not to do that. They voted for a pay raise and [Pritzker] will sign it. Period,” the Illinois GOP said on Twitter. “Here’s what will happen: a safe, entrenched legislator will sue to get their pay raise now mandated in statute. The comptroller will then comply based on past court precedent. IL Dems take the people of Illinois for fools.”