Pritzker signs bill giving $12K pay raises to state lawmakers
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker approved raises for the statewide elected leaders just ahead of their inaugurations Jan. 9. State lawmakers will get $12,094 raises when they take office Jan. 11. Big hikes also went to Pritzker’s department leaders and their assistants.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed off on raises for all the state’s top leaders, his department chiefs and $12,904 boost in the base pay for being a state lawmaker.
The raises came just in time for statewide officeholders to receive them before they were sworn in Jan. 9 and before the 103rd Illinois General Assembly takes office Jan. 11. State lawmakers will receive 18% more than their predecessors’ base pay, or $85,000.
The rush to get raises started late on Jan. 6, after some state representative had already left for the weekend. Pritzker initially sought more for his appointed department leaders, but before lawmakers were done they gave raises to the statewide elected leaders and gave themselves the biggest percentage hike.
Pritzker’s complaints with executive compensation and the ability to attract the best talent go back to the start of his first term, when he paid some of his staffers extra out of his own pocket.
“People are willing to take a discounted salary off of what they might get in the private sector to come to public service, but you really have to be somewhat competitive. People are putting their kids through college or they’re paying their home mortgage or their rent. ...,” Pritzker said. “We just want to be competitive and bring great people and then retain great people in state government.”
Why state lawmakers, who added annual inflation boosts to their last raises, needed 18% raises is less clear. The bill’s sponsor, House Majority Leader Greg Harris, D-Chicago, said it was a populist move.
“We don’t want a legislature that’s only made up of the wealthy," said Harris, who is retiring. “We want people who can run for office, serve their community, but also be able to pay for their family and kids.”
In reality, many state representatives will get more than $85,000 because of salary bonuses for committee responsibilities and leadership positions ranging from $12,000 to $16,000.
The bill passed the Illinois House 63-35, with about 20 members not voting, some of them already gone for the weekend. The Illinois Senate passed the bill 30-21 on Jan. 8 and Pritzker signed it into law just ahead of the inaugurations at noon, Jan. 9.
The raise in base pay is in addition to 2.4% annual cost-of-living increases lawmakers gave themselves in 2019 during another secretive move. Those increases have lawmakers making about $72,096 and hit every July 1.
“Wages aren’t keeping up with inflation, but we’ve locked in inflation bumps each July, and now, late at night, with no one here, we’ve ensured our pay goes up well beyond what the private sector sees,” state Rep. Mark Batinick, R-Plainfield, told The Associated Press. Batinick is retiring when the 103rd Illinois General Assembly is sworn in Jan. 11.
Statewide elected leaders got raises in base pay, ranging from $205,700 for the governor to $160,900 for lieutenant governor. Pritzker, a billionaire heir to the Hyatt Hotels fortune, has not taken his salary since taking office. The bill created a position of Illinois House speaker pro tempore and gives the Senate another leadership position for attaining a supermajority, which adds a five-figure bump to those two $85,000 lawmaker salaries.
Raises for Pritzker’s appointees ranged from about 7% to over 28%. The director of the beleaguered Department of Children and Family Services saw his salary rise to $200,000, as did the directors of Veterans’ Affairs, Corrections, Public Health, State Police, Transportation, Human Services, and Innovation and Technology. Their assistants also saw significant raises.
The lame-duck session included a scramble to pass bills on abortion and gun control, but state representatives made time to put through the bill for mid-year spending adjustments that included the pay raises. Their $12,094 per lawmaker raises are for a legislature that is technically part-time and as of 2019 was the fourth-highest paid in the nation.