(The Center Square) – Despite the Illinois Constitution prohibiting lawmakers from increasing their pay during the term they were elected, some are wondering how Illinois legislators have received two bumps in pay in the last six months.
In the latest state budget, Illinois lawmakers included a 5.5% pay raise. This is on top of the nearly 17% raise the previous General Assembly that ended Jan. 10 gave the current General Assembly that began Jan. 11.
Kent Redfield, professor of political science at the University of Illinois-Springfield, said the laws are designed that lawmaker salaries are set before they take office.
“The statutory salary, that you can’t raise or lower and is already set before they take office,” Redfield said. “This got litigated in the 1970s where you had a lame-duck pay increase and there was a big uprising about it.”
Redfield said lawmakers called the latest hike a cost-of-living raise.
“They needed to appropriate money to cover that increase that was coming from the cost-of-living on July 1, because it was based on 5.5%, but someone forgot to read the statute,” Redfield said. “It authorizes cost-of-living on the federal index, but it couldn’t be more than 5 percent.”
To make it legal, Gov. J.B. Pritzker exercised a reduction veto, but only took off a half-percent. Last week, he was asked about the raises and wasn’t very complimentary.
“My own view is the General Assembly has to make decisions about this themselves,” Pritzker said. “I look at the entire budget and there are things in the budget that I don’t love.”
The budget got no Republican votes. The super-minority party pointed to the pay raises, as well differences in priorities as reasons they couldn’t support the budget.
Not all Democrats voted in favor of the pay raises. State Sen. Doris Turner, D-Springfield, said the pay raises were inappropriate and plans to donate the additional money to charity.
Despite it being part-time work, Illinois lawmakers will now make nearly $90,000 a year, one of the highest legislative salaries in the country. Members chairing committees or in leadership will make even more. In neighboring Iowa and Missouri, lawmakers make less than $40,000.