Full month’s pay for a day’s work? New bill ends loophole for state lawmakers

Full month’s pay for a day’s work? New bill ends loophole for state lawmakers

House Bill 4273 would eliminate a loophole in state law that allows lawmakers to receive a month's pay for a day of work.

A new bill in the Illinois House of Representatives would close a loophole that allows lawmakers to receive a full month’s pay for far less than a full month’s work.

House Bill 4273, filed by state Rep. Sara Wojcicki Jimenez, R-Leland Grove, would amend the General Assembly Compensation Act, which governs how and when lawmakers are paid.

Under current law, members of the General Assembly who hold office at any point during a given month are entitled to receive a full month’s pay, regardless of when they actually took office. As the law stands, someone could be appointed to fill a vacancy in the General Assembly on Jan. 31, for example, but still be compensated as if he or she had been on the job for the entire month of January.

HB 4273 would amend the law to read, “a member who has held office any part of a month, but not for the entire month, is entitled to compensation only for those days during that month that he or she held office.”

While the current law allows for an obvious abuse of taxpayer dollars, it should come as little surprise in a state where lawmakers are generously compensated for what is technically a part-time job.

Illinois lawmakers are the highest paid in the Midwest, and the fifth highest paid in the nation, with General Assembly members making a baseline salary of nearly $68,000. Lawmakers who serve as committee chairs are also entitled to stipends of more than $10,000 a year.

Lawmakers are also eligible for generous health insurance, dental insurance, a per diem and pension benefits.

The lawmakers’ pension fund – called the General Assembly Retirement System, or GARS – is the worst funded of Illinois’ state-run pension systems, with less than 14 cents on hand for every dollar owed in future benefits.

The result? Illinoisans pay 2.5 times for their lawmakers: once for the lawmakers’ actual salaries and 1.5 times to bail out the lawmakers’ pension plan.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Illinois lawmakers should show leadership in the state’s pension crisis and abolish GARS immediately. In the meantime, General Assembly members can voluntarily opt out of GARS. Nearly 40 state representatives and 11 state senators have done so already.

If Illinois taxpayers are going to be asked to tighten their belts, the same should go for Illinois lawmakers. Jimenez’s commonsense reform should be embraced and paired with an end to the costly GARS pension system.

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