Illinois state lawmakers are taking paychecks despite not passing a budget for nearly 700 days. One might assume they’d be working around the clock to earn them.
But Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan has called the House into session for less than six hours in the entire month of May.
Meanwhile, the House has spent hours playing softball and basketball against the Senate. The House vs. Senate basketball game took place May 15. State lawmakers then took to the diamond for the House vs. Senate softball game May 17.
House members erupted in applause last week when Chicago Democratic state Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie announced May 10 that session on Friday, May 12, had been canceled.
The regular legislative session only runs from January through May, so members of the House and Senate will likely begin their summer breaks after May 31.
Illinois state lawmakers, taking home a base salary of nearly $68,000 a year, are paid far more than lawmakers in neighboring states. The average lawmaker salary including bonuses is $82,000.
When adding the cost of health insurance, dental insurance, mileage reimbursements, per diem payments and normal pension costs, taxpayers are on the hook for more than $100,000 per lawmaker in total annual operating costs.
And that’s not all.
Taxpayers pay once for politicians’ salaries and another 1.5 times for their bankrupt pension system. Taxpayers will contribute the equivalent of nearly $123,000 for each lawmaker in 2017 just to keep the General Assembly Retirement System afloat. State lawmakers have refused to reform their retirement plans.
While the full House has been in session for less than a single workday in May, members have been holding committee meetings throughout the month. But House appropriations committees – where lawmakers should be forging a new budget – have seen relatively little action in 2017.
The Appropriations General Services Committee has held two meetings in the last 20 days.
And with all the talk Illinoisans have heard from lawmakers about how the state funds public education, the Appropriations Elementary and Secondary Education Committee has met only twice in nearly 50 days.
Most Illinoisans would love to have the work schedule of their elected officials. Many would love to be working at all – the Land of Lincoln still has 146,000 fewer people working compared with before the Great Recession, an economic sickness that demands legislative action.
But state lawmakers have better things to do.