Taxpayer victory: Rauner signs bill axing ‘golden parachute’ payouts for public officials

Taxpayer victory: Rauner signs bill axing ‘golden parachute’ payouts for public officials

The Government Severance Pay Act places a cap on – and attaches strings to – golden parachute severance payouts for outgoing government employees.

Failed public officials will no longer be rewarded with six-figure parting gifts subsidized by Illinois taxpayers.

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law Senate Bill 3604 Aug. 14, creating the Government Severance Pay Act, which mandates specific provisions in government employment contracts that limit the capacity for excessive severance packages, commonly known as “golden parachutes.”

SB 3604, filed April 10 by state Sen. Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park, caps severance payouts at the equivalent of 20 weeks of employee compensation. The bill also re-establishes government severance packages as a privilege – rather than an entitlement – mandating that government worker contracts include provisions that revoke severance packages altogether for employees terminated due to misconduct. The law becomes effective Jan. 1, 2019.

Lawmakers previously ventured to curtail golden parachutes with the passage of Senate Bill 2159. The bill, filed by state Sen. Bill Cunningham, D-Chicago, required greater transparency in severance pay negotiations for public university officials, and further capped their payouts at one year’s compensation. Gov. Bruce Rauner signed SB 2159 into law July 2016.

University officials have been among the most generously compensated in the face of career-ending scandal. The Better Government Association illustrated as much in a report released in October 2017, cataloguing a number of big severance payouts. University officials comprised seven of the nine Illinois officials listed in the report.

The College of DuPage board of trustees issued one of the largest severance packages for a government employee in Illinois history, according to the Chicago Tribune. During his tenure, President Robert Breuder hid more than $95 million in public expenditures, $243,300 of which was used to purchase liquor. The item was misleadingly labeled “instructional supplies” on ledger lines. In turn, trustees purchased Breuder’s early retirement for nearly $763,000 in severance pay.

More recently, Chicago’s water reclamation district awarded nearly $100,000 in severance pay and six months of health benefits to former executive director David St. Pierre under ambiguous circumstances. St. Pierre resigned from his position following an investigation by the district board, the contents of which have remained undisclosed to the public.

Most Illinoisans, meanwhile, have experienced a fiscal climate sharply different from that of golden parachute recipients. Indeed, the same environment that has delivered six-figure payouts and premature retirements to public officials, has pushed a top-heavy tax burden onto the backs of Illinois taxpayers.

While more can be done in the way of bringing relief to taxpayers and curbing abuse of taxpayer dollars, the governor’s signing of SB 3604 should be welcomed as a significant taxpayer victory.

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