Work one day, get paid for whole month could end for Illinois lawmakers

Work one day, get paid for whole month could end for Illinois lawmakers

Illinois lawmakers are currently paid for the entire month, even if they resign before the end of it. A new bill could change that.

State Sen. Christina Castro, D-Elgin, filed a bill on Jan. 15 to stop lawmakers from getting a whole month of pay even when they quit on the first of the month.

Senate Bill 2456 would amend the General Assembly Compensation Act to pay lawmakers bi-monthly starting with the next General Assembly, and that a legislator who resigns would be paid on a prorated basis for the time they were in office.

Lawmakers are currently paid for the entire month in which they hold office. If a legislator resigns on the first of the month, they still receive compensation for the whole month, according to the current structure.

That flaw in the system was realized in November when former state Rep. Luis Arroyo resigned on Nov. 1 following his late October arrest on charges of bribing a state official. Although he was only in office a single day, he still was paid for the full month.

It happened again with the resignation of former state Sen. Martin Sandoval. Sandoval submitted his letter of resignation on Nov. 27 to take effect on Jan. 1. Sandoval was paid for the entire month of December, although the General Assembly was not in session, as well as for the entire month of January, despite only holding office for a few hours on the first of the month.

Castro’s bill would ensure lawmakers could not be paid a full month of compensation when they resign. Under her proposal, Arroyo would have been paid for the first half of November. Sandoval might have chosen to resign prior to Jan. 1, as he would not have received the full month’s pay.

State Rep. Monica Bristow, D-Alton, also filed House Bill 4131, which proposes a similar amendment to the General Assembly Compensation Act.

Last year, state Rep. Mike Murphy, R-Springfield, filed House Bill 818 which aims to pay lawmakers for the days they actually work rather than for the full month.

Illinois lawmakers became among the highest paid in the nation after they voted to raise their pay $1,628 in the most recent state budget. The 2.4% cost-of-living increase, which they had been refusing since 2008, brought the average Illinois lawmaker’s pay to $69,464. The national average for lawmaker pay is $38,434.

Castro’s proposal is an opportunity for lawmakers to fix exploitable rules this legislative session. A dozen state senators have already signed on as co-sponsors, and other lawmakers should support this bill to ensure taxpayers are paying lawmakers for the time they work, and not gaming the system after being forced out of office.

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