Ann Maher Jul. 27, 2016, 9:11am


CHICAGO - A new report from the Illinois Policy Institute says that taxpayers are spending $32 million per year in "generous" compensation for lawmakers including salaries, per diem payments, mileage reimbursements, health care, dental insurance, pay for committee and leadership roles and pensions.

Its analysis shows that at $67,836, state legislators receive the highest base salary in the Midwest and the fifth highest base salary in the country. On top of base salary for what the institute says is "essentially" part-time work, almost all lawmakers receive thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in extra payments.

“Illinois taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to pay an average of $100,000 per legislator, especially when General Assembly has made Illinois the laughing stock of the nation," stated Ted Dabrowski, vice president of policy for the group.

In a press release issued Wednesday, Dabrowski calls on lawmakers to set an example of cutting back, starting with their own "pay and perks."

"Lawmakers haven’t passed a full budget, the state can’t pay its bills and yet, legislators still prioritize their pay over core social services,” he stated. “They should set an example for other areas of state government of how to reduce the cost of government to a level taxpayers can afford.”

The group, which frequently calls for reform of the state's underfunded pension systems, says that taxpayers pay nearly $15,000 per lawmaker for the General Assembly Retirement System (GARS) pension benefits they accrue each year. Taxpayers also pay millions into the GARS each year to keep the system afloat, the group states.

"Lawmakers can retire in their 50s, receive 3 percent annual cost-of- living adjustments, and earn 85 percent of their final salary after just 20 years of service," the group notes in the release.

The group's analysis also offers the following:

- Health care and dental insurance - In 2016, health care and dental insurance cost Illinois taxpayers nearly $7,300 per legislator. Illinois has 177 legislators.

- Per diem payments and mileage reimbursements - In 2015, Illinois taxpayers paid more than $7,700 in per diem payments and mileage reimbursement costs for each legislator.

- Stipends - In addition to their base salaries, Illinois legislators can earn between $10,000 and $30,000 in stipends for holding leadership positions or serving on a committee. The vast majority – 67 percent – of Illinois lawmakers receive a stipend in addition to their base salary.

Committee chairs in both the House and Senate receive $10,327. Chairmanships are awarded to lawmakers in the majority, which in both chambers is the Democratic party.

Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton) is chair of the Senate Insurance Committee.

Sen. James Clayborne (D-East St. Louis) is chair of the Senate Assignments Committee.

State Rep. Dan Beiser (D-Alton) is chair of the House Transportation, Regulation, Roads Committee.

State Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Belleville) is chair of the House Judiciary - Civil; Labor and Commerce Committee.

State Rep. Jerry Costello, II (D-Red Bud) is chair of the House Agriculture and Conservation Committee.

Minority spokespersons also are compensated with an extra $10,327.

Sen. Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon) is the minority spokesperson for the Senate Environment and Conservation Committee.

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