Illinois House passes bill stopping pay raises for lawmakers

Illinois House passes bill stopping pay raises for lawmakers

House Bill 5760 would stop lawmakers’ scheduled cost-of-living adjustment. Illinois lawmakers are the fifth-highest paid state lawmakers in the nation.

Illinois lawmakers won’t receive scheduled pay raises for 2018 if a new House bill becomes law.

The Illinois House of Representatives on April 18 passed a measure to curb annual cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, per diem payments and travel reimbursements to state lawmakers. It now heads to the Senate.

House Bill 5760 was filed state Rep. Monica Bristow, D-Godfrey, and prohibits scheduled COLAs for members of the General Assembly for fiscal year 2019. The bill also freezes lawmakers’ per diem and travel reimbursements.

HB 5760 attracted broad bipartisan support and passed the House on a vote of 108-2.

General Assembly members are entitled to an annual base salary of $68,000 a year. A 2016 Illinois Policy Institute report found the Land of Lincoln’s lawmakers earned the fifth-highest annual base salary for state lawmakers in the nation.

But it doesn’t end there. Illinois’ far-too-common committee chairs receive an additional stipend worth more than $10,000 a year, on top of their pay and benefits package.

Career lawmakers in Illinois are also entitled to pensions through the state-run General Assembly Retirement System, or GARS. GARS is the worst-funded of Illinois’ state-run pension funds with less than 14 cents on hand for every dollar owed in future benefits. In 2017, taxpayers paid the equivalent of $123,000 per lawmaker toward GARS just to keep the lawmakers’ pension fund going

All in all, Illinoisans pay 2.5 times for their lawmakers. Once for their salaries, and 1.5 times to bail out lawmakers’ bankrupt pension fund. However, there are proposals to resolve the GARS pension crisis. Senate Bill 2284, filed by state Sen. Chuck Weaver, R-Peoria, would direct new lawmakers into a 401(k)-style plan instead of a traditional defined-benefit pension.

While relatively small in scope, HB 5760 would be a positive step toward rightsizing lawmaker compensation.

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