Senior Budget and Tax Policy Analyst
The dust has settled from an uneventful veto session. No progress was made. The one attempt at reforming Illinois’ out-of-control pensions that legislators put forward is a step in the right direction, but ultimately would perpetuate the crisis by failing to prescribe the right medicine for the problem at hand. And the efforts to make things worse in our state, including a TV tax and a push to borrow another $4 billion from the bond market, remain in the legislative pipeline.
All this raises the question: Are Illinoisans getting what they’re paying for in Springfield?
The base salary for an Illinois legislator is $67,836. In the House of Representatives, the average annual pay with stipends is $76,296. Average Senate pay is $79,652, based on the Comptroller’s data. That’s quite a bit higher than median household income of $53,234 in Illinois, a number that plunged by 2.6 percent between 2010 and 2011.
Madigan and Cross each make $95,312 including a $27,476 stipend, as do Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) and Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont).
Their annual salary without stipends is the fifth highest in the country, according to the Empire Center for New York State Policy, a project of Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.
Not only are government officials overpaid, but recent research also shows they are underworked.
Private sector employees work 41.4 hours a week, compared with 38.7 hours per week for federal employees and 38.1 hours per week for state and local government workers. That means, in a calendar year, private sector employees work a month more than their public sector counterparts.
Providing public sector workers with overly generous salaries for fewer hours of work is simply not justified when considering the results – $9 billion in unpaid bills, more than $200 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, a business climate that consistently lags behind the rest of the nation and nearly 600,000 Illinoisans looking for work.
These poor results come with a growing culture of wasteful spending in Illinois. The 2012 Illinois Piglet Book highlights nearly 200 examples of wasteful spending that total $354 million.
Illinois’ current formula is not a recipe for success in any state. Illinois lawmakers must refocus their efforts on the essential government services they were put in place to provide. They should start by giving Illinoisans more bang for their buck and cutting wasteful spending from the budgeting process.