In a previous “Spotlight on Spending” analysis, the Illinois Policy Institute focused on the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s questionable grants, which range anywhere from giving money to help celebrate a Canadian 4th of July, increasing the awareness of Chicago and Illinois in Ireland, providing a fraternity with money to use solar power, and a grant for advertizing “bed & breakfasts that specialize in chocolate-themed meals.”
Although its grant choices may not make it clear, the DCEO’s mission includes fostering a vibrant business climate in Illinois. It is failing, however, to fulfill this responsibility. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) highlights this failure, ranking Illinois 48th for Economic Performance and 47th for Economic Outlook in 2010. Additionally, Illinois ranked 48th for Non-Farm Payroll Employment Growth from 1998-2008, and 48th for Absolute Net Migration from 1999-2008.
There’s more to the story. On top of questionable grants and dismal state economic performance, what about all the tax dollars paying the salaries of this failing department’s employees?
In 2009, Illinois taxpayers footed a tab of over $30 million in order to pay the salaries of DCEO employees. The DCEO employs 487 workers, according to data the Illinois Policy Institute received from the state through a Freedom of Information Request. As the data shows, 13 DCEO employees make $100K or more; 28 make between $90-99K; 42 make between $80-89K; 108 make between $70-79K; 118 make between $60-69K; 64 make between $50-59K; 50 make between $40-49K; and, 64 make less than $40K. This does not include DCEO’s director or assistant director, who make $145,000 and $121,000 respectively. These positions are not listed under “Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity” in the state’s databases but instead under “State Officers.”
Over 75 percent (373 out of 487) of DCEO employees make a salary of $50,000 or more, and this doesn’t include benefits.
Now more than ever, a widespread number of Illinoisans are increasingly questioning their government’s spending, especially regarding salaries. Not only is the DCEO failing to perform its primary function of making Illinois attractive to businesses, it’s also paying generous salaries despite lackluster performance by the Department on the whole. Solution
The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity should be eliminated. Why This Works
Taxpayers deserve better. The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is failing at its core mission to create and maintain jobs in Illinois. It spends tax dollars on unessential projects and costs taxpayers a tab of over $30 million in salaries alone.
As Representative Mike Connelly (R-Lisle) points out, “There would be no need for DCEO if the tax policies in Illinois were attractive to business investment. Moreover, it’s a redundant government agency. Specifically, there are already many economic development organizations like the Naperville Development Partnership that already work to bring new business and retain business in Illinois.”
Also commenting on the DCEO’s role and its spending, Representative Jack Franks (D-Woodstock) remarks, “There is absolutely no oversight in the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. No one knows how money is spent once it gets into the hands of the grantee. It has turned into a pay-to-play cesspool, and it needs to be eliminated. Clearly, the DCEO is failing when Illinois is losing business and remaining uncompetitive to other states, like Indiana, that are doing a much better job of promoting a friendly, pro-business environment and welcoming businesses in with better incentives. Taxpayers deserve a much better and more honest use of their hard-earned money.”
Eliminating the DCEO would provide one step toward ending unnecessary spending of tax dollars at the state level.