Illinois lawmakers give themselves $1,200 raise, double office budgets
The fiscal year 2022 budget includes pay hikes for members of the Illinois General Assembly, who were already among the nation’s highest-paid state lawmakers. It also boosts office allowances and leader stipends.
In a budget passed during the dead of night with no time for public review, Illinois lawmakers raised their own pay by nearly $1,200. The nearly 4,000 pages of the legislation that collectively makes up the state budget was negotiated in secret and released just hours before the vote.
If signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, this would mark the second lawmaker pay increase of the governor’s tenure. Pritzker’s 2019 budget raised salaries for state representatives and state senators by $1,600 each. Illinois lawmakers were already the fifth-highest paid in the nation. The fiscal year 2022 budget raises their pay to $70,645 from $69,464 one year earlier.
Data from the National Conference of State Legislatures shows the national average for state lawmaker pay is just $34,108. Many state legislatures spend significantly less time in session than the Illinois General Assembly and are truly part-time, whereas Illinois lawmakers are closer to full-time.
In addition to their base salaries, all Illinois lawmakers receive $151 each day the legislature is in session along with travel reimbursement. Lawmakers receive an additional stipend for serving in party leadership roles or leading committees, worth between just over $10,000 to nearly $30,000 per year. Several of these bonuses were also increased as part of the fiscal year 2022 budget.
In total, the fiscal year 2022 spending plan increased the budget for running the General Assembly by $27 million. On top of the higher base salaries and leadership bonuses, office allowances for individual lawmakers more than doubled to $33.8 million. Similarly, the budget for leadership staff and party caucus staff increased by nearly 50% to $30.6 million.
Illinoisans could validly question whether lawmakers have earned the increased pay and perks.
The budget passed on June 1 would mark Illinois’ 21st consecutive unbalanced budget. More than two decades of overspending has left the state with the second-most net debt of any state at $226 billion. Nearly 80% of that debt stems from retirement benefits for government workers.
Illinois has the worst credit rating in the nation and was the only state forced to rely on emergency borrowing from the federal reserve to keep its finances afloat during the pandemic. Before taking a larger share of the pie for themselves, lawmakers should commit to making the structural financial reforms necessary to get Illinois’ fiscal house in order.