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SPRINGFIELD — Illinois lawmakers usually say it loud and proud when they cut their own pay to save the state some money, but they are much quieter about raising their salaries.

By Mary J. Cristobal

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois lawmakers usually say it loud and proud when they cut their own pay to save the state some money, but they are much quieter about raising their salaries.

A state Senate panel on Monday passed a plan, SB260, requiring General Assembly members to take 12 furlough days for fiscal year 2012, which starts in July.

However, another bill voted on Monday, SB2467, includes the “additional amounts per year” for other lawmakers — committee chairmen and committee minority spokesmen and spokeswomen.

The lump-sum appropriations in the proposal would increase pay for Senate committee chiefs by 14 percent. House committee bosses would see a 47-percent jump in pay. These increases are on top of the base $67,836 annual salaries that all lawmakers earn. Committee and leadership posts bring extra pay.

In other words, more taxpayers’ money would be funneled into extra pay for select lawmakers, said state Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon.

“So there’s some games being played here,” said Righter, a member of the Senate Executive Committee. “And sometimes that’s the way things happen — like this — is because (Democrats) want to do it before anyone really sees it.”

However State Sen. Dan Kotowski, D-Park Ridge, who sponsored the furlough measure, said this move would restore the public’s good faith and trust to the government.

“We’re basically changing the existing law, to require legislators to work 12 days without getting paid,” he said. “That’s very, very, important, and that’s going to lead to reduction in salaries across the board this year and a total of saving $1.2 million for taxpayers.”

Lawmakers do want the public to notice when they cut their own pay, Righter and Kotowski said.

“But not this, the increasing the stipend (proposal), because it kind of makes it look like, ‘OK you’re taking it out of your pocket over here, but you’re going to shove your other pocket full,'” Righter said. “That’s what it looks like, like the outset that they’re trying to do here.”

Lilia Hodges, 58, of Chicago, was at the Capitol on Monday to support Progress Center for Independent Living, a nonprofit advocacy organization.

“I feel ashamed, and I feel mortified that our legislators would increase the lining of their pockets when we, who are on Social Security disability, have not had a cost-of-living increase in over two years,” said Hodges, an Army veteran who served until 1984.

Eric Guidish, 41, said lawmakers deserve a pay raise, but now is not the right time.

“I understand lawmakers work hard, … but I don’t know if I can bear a pay raise (for lawmakers,)” the Springfield man said. “Here we are asking not to be cut and to be able to continue to live in our communities and live with our family and loved ones. On the other hand, we hear they are required to receive pay raises when a lot of agencies are losing funding and closing.”

The government needs to live within its means, Kotowski said.

“The fact is, we have very limited resources available, and we have to make necessary cuts and sacrifices,” he said. “The General Assembly needs to lead, and that’s what we’re doing — we’re leading and we’re making necessary sacrifices that we have to.”

The measure is on its way to the Senate for a full vote.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the bill number for the measure that would raise the pay of legislative leaders.

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2 Comments

  1. With their record–cut not increase pay

    With all the problems for the state residents that the state government has caused, they should be cutting their salaries instead of increasing them for all state employees.

    This is an example of what we have known all along.  They are in it for money whether raises they give themselves or connections they make to make money on the side.

    1. Only a select few

      Not "all" state employees got a raise, as you have stated. An overwhelming majority of General Assembly members voted for the furlough days, which is actually a cut. I agree that for committee chairs and such to get any raise is out of line, but I just want to be sure the facts are accurately presented here

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