The Carmi Times

Illinois lawmakers' base salaries fifth highest in nation

Friday, July 23, 2010

Chicago, Ill. — While thousands of state workers take a month of unpaid time off and the state wallows in economic distress, the Illinois Policy Institute finds state lawmakers continue to enjoy one the nation's highest state salaries.

According to the latest "Spotlight in Spending" report, state lawmakers' base salary of $67,836 is the fifth highest nationally and 47 percent more than the average Illinois resident makes. Illinois trails only California, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania in the base salary paid to lawmakers. In contrast, lawmakers in Texas, Utah and New Mexico receive no base salary.

Automatic pay raises for legislators assure the disparity grows, with lawmakers making comparable compensation to microbiologists, physics professors and credit analysts. The free market think tank also finds questionable value for that higher pay.

"The day has come to end automatic pay raises for lawmakers," said Kate Piercy, the Illinois Policy Institute's director of government reform. "As Illinois continues to struggle financially, legislators need to ask themselves whether they can justify spending additional taxpayer money on themselves while they are unable to fund the core services that those same Illinois taxpayers depend on."

A survey by the Illinois Policy Institute found that the 10 states with the lowest legislator salaries only had budget deficits of 19 percent in their general funds for the last fiscal year. In stark contrast, the 10 states with the highest legislator salaries had budget deficits for the last fiscal year that amounted to 30 percent in their general funds.

A good first step in reigning in legislators' salary increases was taken recently when lawmakers rejected funds for a pay increase in July 2010. In addition, the Institute also recommends freezing legislator pay at current levels until the national average is the same as Illinois's current pay level. Finally, the Institute recommends that lawmakers inject more sunshine into this issue by making lawmaker pay raises a public roll-call vote.

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