Illinois state lawmakers pass $1,600 pay raise for themselves

By Vincent Caruso, Illinois Policy Institute | Jun 6, 2019


On its way to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk is a bundle of spending proposals that come with tax hikes on Illinoisans – and pay raises for state lawmakers.

Due to a “paperwork mix-up that went uncorrected,” according to the Associated Press, lawmakers can expect a pay hike of $1,600 included in a $40 billion budget proposal that now awaits Pritzker’s signature.

The raises would take effect July 1.

On May 31, Democrats in the Illinois Senate acknowledged that a freeze on General Assembly cost-of-living increases had not been included in the proposed budget. Senate lawmakers then amended a separate bill to include the freeze, according to AP, and advanced it to the Illinois House of Representatives.

The House did not take any action on that bill before adjourning spring session, meaning with Pritzker’s signature, state lawmakers would be secured a 2.4% pay hike.

More than 40 House GOP members have signed on to a resolution opposing pay raises for lawmakers. State Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, in a Facebook post wrote that House Speaker Mike Madigan refused to call House Bill 837, which would have axed the raises.

Illinois lawmakers took home the fifth-highest base salary in the country as of 2016, according to an Illinois Policy Institute analysis.

Since 2008, state lawmakers’ annual salary has been held constant at $67,836. But that doesn’t include $10,000 committee chairmanship stipends, per diems, mileage reimbursements and other perks lawmakers receive for what is technically a part-time job. The General Assembly Retirement System, or GARS, costs taxpayers millions in annual bailouts, as it contains just 14.4 cents for every dollar needed to pay future benefits.

When taking those costs into account, Illinois taxpayers already pay their lawmakers 2.5 times over – once for their salaries and then the equivalent of 1.5 times salary for lawmakers’ pensions. In total, lawmaker compensation costs Illinois taxpayers more than $32 million a year.

After leaving Springfield, 58 former state lawmakers are collecting yearly pension payouts over $100,000, with 44 having accumulated over $1 million in total pension benefits, according to GARS documents compiled by the Institute. On average, the 58 former state lawmakers collecting six-figure pensions have accumulated nearly $1.5 million in total pension benefits, while averaging only $126,300 in total contributions.

retired-lawmakers

While an income boost likely awaits the lawmakers who drafted the spending proposal, the opposite is true of those who must pay for that spending.

Lawmakers’ record $40 billion budget only represents a portion of the proposed new spending that will go before the governor. The General Assembly also advanced a $45 billion infrastructure spending plan that includes doubling the state’ gas tax to 38 cents from 19 cents per gallon. Combined with the medley of local taxes and fees Illinoisans pay on gasoline, this proposal would raise the total tax burden on Illinois gas purchases to second-highest in the nation. The plan also hikes the annual vehicle registration fees for most vehicles by $50.

In a state where residents pay one of the highest overall tax burdens in the nation, Illinoisans are justified in their frustration with a Statehouse that rewards itself while demanding more of taxpayers.

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