Comptroller candidates seek a peek at public servants' paychecks

Amid outrage of hefty salaries of some government officials, comptroller candidates call for more transparency

Monday, August 16, 2010

State Rep. David Miller, D- Dolton, wants you to know he makes $76,000 a year as a member of Illinois' General Assembly.

And if Miller, the Democratic candidate for state comptroller, has his way, you'll soon be able to easily access an online database for salaries of all state employees and elected officials through the Illinois comptroller's Web site.

Miller's opponent in the November election, Republican Judy Baar Topinka, has also advocated for making these taxpayer-funded salaries more transparent, a push toward government accountability at a time of public anger over hefty salaries and pensions paid to lawmakers in Illinois and around the country.

"The fact of the matter is this is public information and it should be easy to get," Miller said between campaign stops in the Chicago area on Sunday. "Why should you have to make a (Freedom of Information request) and wait for the answer? It's your tax dollars."

Brad Hahn, spokesman for Topinka's campaign, agreed.

"Judy has long been an advocate of putting state salaries online, as well as providing full access to state contractor and subcontractor information. She believes in full access to state government transactions," Hahn said.

Miller and Topinka are vying to replace Dan Hynes, Illinois' three-term comptroller who stepped down this year to run for governor but lost the primary. The comptroller job pays about $132,000 a year.

Miller said Hynes' office did a good job in recent years building searchable databases for campaign donations and state contracts. But in the wake of several highly publicized controversies over payouts to government employees — including an administrator from suburban Bellwood who raked in more than $472,000 in 2009 and three executives from the Highland Park's Park District who each earned more $237,000 in salaries and bonuses — Miller said more needs to be done to win back the public's trust.

"If we're going to have a serious discussion about expenditures and cutbacks at the state level, we first need to be honest about how much we're all being paid," said Miller, a dentist from Lynwood. "For me, that's where it has to start."

Miller's proposal, which he's championing on campaign stops around the state this week, includes the salaries of current employees and elected representatives at the state level. He also wants the database to provide a salary timeline, showing any pay raises and bonuses the employees have gotten.