By Austin Berg
As thousands of state vendors wait months for payments in Illinois, state politicians continue to voice tone-deaf complaints that they aren’t getting their own paychecks on time.
State Rep. Robert Martwick, D-Chicago, took to Facebook to comment on the fact that State Comptroller Leslie Munger tossed lawmaker salaries into the state’s $8 billion pile of unpaid bills in April. Her office most recently sent out payments to lawmakers on July 4.
“Offering a financial incentive to an elected official to secure their vote on a subject is corruption,” Martwick wrote. “If you do that, you will go to jail. Withholding pay in order to force a vote is no different.”
His post linked to an article detailing one state lawmaker’s efforts to earn extra money by driving for Uber.
“By denying him pay, Leslie Geissler Munger and Bruce Rauner are trying, and succeeding, at putting him in a very difficult financial decision,” Martwick continued. “That is extortion and corruption.”
Illinois lawmakers aren’t used to being treated like everyone else.
Martwick’s total compensation cost taxpayers nearly $100,000 in 2015, including his $67,836 salary, nearly $10,000 in health care benefits and dental insurance, and more than $9,000 in travel reimbursements and per diem payments. He also racked up an additional $12,800 in pension benefits for when he retires.
And that’s for what is essentially part-time work.
Illinois’ state lawmakers also enjoy levels of pay protection not granted to any other body of state government. Until April, state lawmakers were getting paid despite Illinois’ lack of a state budget.
That’s due to a 2014 bill rammed through the General Assembly by Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton. The bill exempted lawmaker salaries and operating expenses from the annual appropriations process. In other words, those payments became “continuing appropriations,” which means they must be specifically prohibited to stop money from flowing to politicians. They’re also immune from year-to-year cuts.
Clearly, Martwick needs a reality check.
Illinois lawmakers should keep in mind that they live in a state with the second-slowest personal-income growth in the nation. Too many Illinoisans have gone years without a decent paycheck. Illinois is also the second-worst state in the nation for putting people back to work in the wake of the Great Recession.
Meanwhile, Martwick and his colleagues receive high salaries, unprecedented salary security, great health care, and guaranteed pension payments on the backs of taxpayers.
Who can complain?