Comptroller announces paycheck delays for Illinois politicians, state officials

Comptroller announces paycheck delays for Illinois politicians, state officials

Total compensation for affected legislators and statewide officeholders equals about $1.3 million per month, according to the comptroller. On top of salaries, taxpayers also have to foot the bill for lawmaker pensions – in Illinois’ active legislators will each cost the state budget about $180,000 next year.

Throughout Illinois’ nearly 10-month budget gridlock, one group has made it through unscathed: state lawmakers. But that will soon change.

State Comptroller Leslie Munger announced April 17 Illinois’ 177 legislators, the governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller, attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer will begin to have paychecks delayed as a result of lawmakers’ inability to pass a balanced budget. Munger said in a news conference when announcing this plan that the total compensation for those legislators and statewide officeholders equals about $1.3 million per month.

Munger also said she did not consult with Gov. Bruce Rauner before making the decision.

This might not sit well with House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton. In 2014, Madigan and Cullerton worked together to pass a law prohibiting reductions from year to year in the appropriations made available in the annual state budget for legislators’ salaries and legislative operating expenses. That law also permits the payment of legislator salaries and expenses even if there is no annual appropriation for that purpose, which is the situation Illinois has been in since last summer.

Illinois state politicians make between $68,000 and $95,000 annually, even though the General Assembly only meets part time, giving them the fifth-highest legislator salaries in the country.

Taxpayers are also paying for lawmakers’ mismanaged pension system. The Illinois General Assembly Retirement System, or GARS, only has enough assets to pay benefits for another 2.5 years. In 2015, taxpayers contributed $99,000 for each active lawmaker just to keep legislative pensions afloat. Taxpayers have been required to contribute 11 times more than lawmakers for the broken legislative pension system.

In total, Illinois’ active legislators will each cost the state budget about $180,000 next year.

House Bill 6152, which is pending in the rules committee, would transition GARS to a 401(k)-style system to stop the bleeding. This type of reform would be similar to Michigan, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, Utah, Rhode Island and Oklahoma, which have all moved to include self-managed plans for government worker retirement systems. GARS has just 16 cents to every dollar, and with no unions to oppose reforms, Illinois politicians could transition into self-managed plans and away from their bankrupt pension system.

Politicians must consider HB 6152 and other much-needed reforms to kickstart Illinois’ economy, including:

Instead of reforms, though, Madigan has suggested increasing the state’s income tax back up to 5 percent, the rate it was under former Gov. Pat Quinn from 2011-2014. This proposal would ask average Illinoisans to pay an additional $800 per year in income taxes.

That’s not a solution that will work for taxpayers, or will make the state more competitive in the Midwest.

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