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Legislator pay: too much or too little?

9 months, 3 weeks ago Brian Mackey, wuis.org

Base salary for an Illinois General Assembly member is $67,836

From Brian Mackey, wuis.org:

A state senator and candidate for higher office on Thursday sought some attention for giving up a portion of his pay. This comes after Illinois lawmakers — for the first time in years — did not vote to symbolically cut their own pay. This form of salary self-denial has become popular in Illinois, but its roots are much deeper than that.

The base salary for a member of the Illinois General Assembly is $67,836 a year.

During the Great Recession, when Illinois’ finances were tanking, lawmakers decided to give some of that back.

They passed a law requiring themselves to take unpaid furlough days, one a month, which reduced annual salaries by a bit less than five percent.

This went on for five years. Then, something changed last summer.

“The legislators should not get paid until they enact comprehensive, public pension reform," said Gov. Pat Quinn, who vetoed the money for legislators’ salaries out of the budget, trying to get them to pass a pension overhaul.

The Democratic leaders of the House and Senate sued the governor and won. Cut to this year, and a spokeswoman for the Senate president says having just argued it was unconstitutional for the governor to cut legislative pay, it would be just as unconstitutional for lawmakers to do it to themselves. Hence there was no vote this year on taking those furlough days.

This does not sit well with Rep. Dwight Kay, a Republican from Glen Carbon.

“The state’s broke," Kay says. "We can’t fund our schools. We can’t take care of the most needy. We can’t provide opportunity. So why in the world should we reward ourselves for doing bad work."

Kay points to the fact that Illinois legislators are among the best paid in the country. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, only California, Pennsylvania, New York and Michigan have higher base salaries. But other states are way, way lower, like New Hampshire, where a two-year term will net you a cool $200.

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