Illinois has some of the highest paid mayors in the world

Illinois has some of the highest paid mayors in the world

State and local tax hikes in Illinois have hurt economic growth, lowered the standard of living, and contributed to out-migration.

Skyrocketing property taxes and overwhelming unfunded liabilities are crushing municipalities across Illinois, but several mayors are bringing in six-figure salaries – some of which rank among the highest in the world.

With a salary of $260,000 per year, Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens is the second highest paid mayor in the world behind San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. Village trustees voted to increase Stephen’s salary 53 percent for 2017 to that current figure, which gives him a salary more than $40,000 higher than that of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel – despite Chicago having a population more than 600 times larger than Rosemont. Likewise, Village Trustees in Orland Park voted to increase Mayor Dan McLaughlin’s salary $110,000 for 2017 – from $40,000 to $150,000 – which will significantly spike his pension once he retires, presumably in the not-too-distant future.

Bolingbrook Mayor Roger Claar and Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey also rank among the highest paid in the world, at annual salaries of $150,176 and $129,729, respectively. For global reference, Tokyo Mayor Yuriko Koike makes the equivalent of $238,000. London Mayor Sadiq Khan makes $208,000.

High pay for politicians, meager wage growth for taxpayers

High pay for local officials is a bipartisan problem, showing a disconnect between politicians and struggling taxpayers across the state.

In Rockford, for example, earnings for city workers increased 20 percent between 2005-2014, while private sector earnings decreased 1 percent. And Rockford taxpayers aren’t the only ones subsidizing its high-priced city employees.

Rockford receives more than $15 million annually in Local Government Distributive Funding, or LGDF, from the state, accounting for almost 5 percent of the city’s revenue.

The LGDF distributes a portion of state-collected income taxes to local governments each year, not based on need or any particular purpose, but simply on each government’s share of statewide population. Just eliminating LGDF for towns with populations over 5,000 would save taxpayers $1.75 billion.

Local officials might claim LGDF funds local services and keeps local taxes low. But the facts – the nation’s highest property taxes and the billions spent on perks and duplicative bureaucracies – show the opposite, with Rockford being a prime example.

And this is on top of the revenue floating into municipal coffers from bloated property tax rates. Rockford has property tax rates nearing 3 percent, while Orland Park and Rosemont hover around 2 percent. All of these – in a state with the highest property taxes in the nation – far exceed the national average.

The problem extends further downstate. Other mayors not ranked as highest paid in the world are still raking in more than taxpayers can afford. Danville Mayor Scott Eisenhauer makes $73,000, while the per capita income in Danville is only about $18,000. Danville is nearly in recession, and solutions to rescue the fledging downstate community haven’t focused on easing the tax burden. The city increased its sales tax to 9.25 percent from 8.75 percent for 2017 and has been included as one of the towns targeted for casino expansion in the Senate’s “grand bargain.” Eisenhauer has claimed the casino would mean hundreds of new jobs and millions in more revenue for Danville, but focusing on casino expansion and tax hikes ignores the structural problems plaguing Danville and other municipalities across the state.

A true, permanent property tax freeze, reform to the LGDF and some reasonability by local politicians are all needed to relieve taxpayers of the burdensome costs they endure at the municipal level. Instead, local politicians in Illinois seemingly take a page from the General Assembly – where lawmakers are among the highest paid in the nation for part-time work. Illinois lawmakers make a base salary of $68,000, the fifth-highest base pay in the nation. All the while, politicians in Springfield refuse to enact any true meaningful economic reforms and have not passed a balanced budget in 16 years. Local leaders shouldn’t follow the Springfield playbook of enriching themselves while taxpayers remain strapped for cash.

Illinoisans are saddled with the highest property taxes in the nation in an uncompetitive state. With politicians in Springfield tinkering with multibillion-dollar tax hikes as the only “solution” to the state’s financial woes, local politicians – especially some of the world’s highest-paid mayors – should show fiscal restraint and put taxpayers first.

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