Greater Chicago area lawmakers ignore needed reforms, head on spring break
While Chicago-area taxpayers struggle under a heavy tax burden, lawmakers – who continue to ignore reforms the state desperately needs – are now on a two-week vacation.
So far in 2017, lawmakers in Springfield aren’t instilling much confidence in Chicagoland taxpayers.
Members of the General Assembly have used most of their time this year proposing new taxes and tax hikes on struggling Illinois families, and done nothing in the way of reforms.
But while taxpayers in the greater Chicago area suffer, Springfield lawmakers are getting a vacation – right after a payday.
Members of the Illinois General Assembly adjourned April 11 without passing a balanced budget, but they still were compensated well for their time. Thanks to 2014 legislation House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton pushed forward, state politicians are guaranteed pay with or without a budget. That’s significant given that Illinois lawmakers – who are among the highest paid in the country – enjoy several additional perks to their already-high base salaries, including generous stipends for serving as committee chairs.
For instance, state Rep. Marty Moylan, D-Des Plaines, was able to get one bill out of committee just before spring break – a bill mandating that only products made in Illinois be sold at the Illinois State Museum. Moylan’s 2017 legislative efforts also include a bill prohibiting any gaming positions within Chicago’s city limits from being built within 20 miles of Des Plaines, Moylan’s hometown and also the home of Rivers Casino. Moylan has filed identical protectionist legislation for Rivers before, but it has never been successful and in all likelihood won’t be this time, as that bill was re-referred to the House Rules Committee and is effectively dead.
And state Rep. Michelle Mussman, D-Schaumburg, spent time introducing legislation regulating antique mopeds and requiring new rules for children working as models in the state. Like Moylan’s gaming bill, both were re-referred to the House Rules Committee and will most likely not advance.
Despite those legislative priorities and the failure to pass a balanced budget, though, the lucrative pay and stipends are still guaranteed.
It’s a different reality for taxpayers in the greater Chicago area, who don’t have those same financial guarantees and are instead hit with higher taxes and fees, and are fleeing the city in greater numbers for opportunities either away from the Chicagoland area or out of the state entirely. With taxpayers voting with their feet, representatives from the Chicago area should focus on the reforms the area urgently needs. But that hasn’t been the case.
Politicians making some of the highest legislative salaries in the country should not be ignoring their constitutionally required duty to pass a balanced budget – though they have been for 16 years. As the greater Chicago area shows, the state is desperate for economic reforms, including property tax relief, workers’ compensation reform and a reduction in the high costs of local government.