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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Illinois state lawmakers among highest paid in nation

Their View

By Ben Szalinski, Illinois Policy Institute | Jul 23, 2019

Illinoisgenassembly

State lawmakers in Illinois are among the highest paid in the nation. And after granting themselves a salary boost at the end of spring session, they’ll take home even more this fiscal year.

Included in the state budget recently passed by the Illinois General Assembly was a $1,628 pay raise for state lawmakers, which took effect when Illinois’ fiscal year 2020 began July 1.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the budget into law June 6, after having cleared the General Assembly June 1 on a bipartisan vote.

Under the new budget, state lawmakers receive a cost-of-living increase of 2.4%, raising their annual income to $69,464. The national average for lawmaker pay is $38,434.

While the General Assembly had not previously accepted a pay raise since 2008, state lawmakers in Illinois were already the fifth-highest paid in the nation – and the highest-paid among those not considered “full-time” by the National Conference of State Legislatures, or NCSL.

NCSL classifies Illinois state lawmakers as “full-time lite,” meaning they serve smaller districts and work shorter sessions than full-time lawmakers, but are highly paid, employ large staffs and spend at least 80% of their job on legislative work.

In addition to their base salary, state lawmakers in Illinois can also receive $10,000 committee chairmanship stipends, per diems, mileage reimbursements and other perks.

States where lawmakers make more than Illinois – California, New York, Pennsylvania and Michigan – have full-time legislatures, according to NCSL.

Illinois lawmakers are in Springfield for about 70 days each year. But their salaries exceed the state’s median household income of $61,229, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Pension pain

The General Assembly Retirement System, or GARS, costs taxpayers millions in annual bailouts, as it contains less than 15 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.

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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