D/A fleshes out the retroactive pay raise story
A piece by Scot Reeder in today's D/A fleshes out the recent pay raise approved by the Illinois Senate and which applies to the House as well.
Just after the election, the lawmakers voted themselves a 15% retroactive pay raise, so they can get the raise going back to July but didn't have to be honest about it during the campaign.
Sen. Mike Jacobs is the only local legislator who voted in favor of the pay hike.
Reeder provides a more comprehensive look at legislators entire pay and benefit packages:
* $57,619 base salary, which with the pay raise will rise to $66,607.A commenter recently provided an even more real world view of all that legislators have given to them at no expense to themselves:
* $23,388 stipend to the leaders of the four legislative caucuses.
* $16,810 to $19,731 annual bonus for those holding lesser leadership posts.
* $8,771 for those who are chairman or minority spokesperson on a committee.
* $125 per day payment for every legislator for each day of session. The payment covers meals and lodging, but any leftover funds lawmakers can keep. In 2004, the House met for 68 days, the Senate for 67.
* Reimbursement for driving on official business at a rate of 44 cents per mile.
* State health insurance (The value depends on the type of coverage the lawmaker chooses and the number of dependents placed on the policy.)
* $69,409 allocation to each House member for running a district office.
* $83,063 allocation to each Senator for running a district office.
* A pension that is 85 percent of the top salary earned by a lawmaker, which is paid upon retiring after 20 years. (Retired members are also guaranteed a 3 percent cost of living adjustment each year.)
Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, supported the recent pay hike.
Shortly after the vote he said, "In a world where pitchers make $50 million, my (cost of living adjustment) seems like a pretty small issue. But in the end, I thought my wife, son and I deserved it."
For starters, Legislators get their base salary. That's the figure reported in the news and is the basis of all the stories about salary increases.
In addition to their base salary, they also get additional pay if they are Chairman of a Committee. I also believe there is an additional salary increase for being in a leadership position.
Additionally, there is per diem for every day that the legislature is in session and the member is in attendance. This is a significant allowance, and most members spend less than their per diem allotment and pocket some profit.
Part of the reason the member is able to pocket some per diem money, is the fact that on a normal session day there's usually some kind of banquet or dinner being put on by a special interest group that offers free food.
Failing that, it's quite common for lobbyists to take legislators to dinner. It depends on the particular legislator's personality, but if a General Assembly member is even mildly outgoing it's likely they will rarely have to buy an evening meal in Springfield.
Additionally, a member of the General Assembly is entitled to a Springfield Secretary. This secretary is a full time state employee who can do legislative work as assigned by the member.
Additionally, official state printing is done for General Assembly members below cost. The member purchases the paper and/or card stock and that is their only expense a member absorbs associated with printing official state materials.
If you get any official state mailing from a General Assembly member, it's also done for the member at less than normal cost. The member pays standard bulk rate postage, but the sorting and other manual labor is done by legislative staff, which is a significant savings compared to using a normal bulk mail firm.
Other legislative staff is assigned to General Assembly members as needed to do radio and news releases for their districts, other's are assigned for special projects and meetings. It depends on the individual, but this can involve another significant taxpayer subsidy for the elected official. I believe the House and Senate Democrats also make available professional photography staff for portraits and pictures with visitors etc.
On top of that the legislators are entitled to an office allotment which pays for their local district office. Senators get a bit more than Representatives because their districts are double the size, but in either case this is a significant sum. The office staff that's there to answer calls and do other work as assigned by their member, and all office expenses associated with the local district office come from this allotment. It's currently in excess of $60,000 per legislator that funds the district office.
The district office allotment can also be used to pay for legislative travel reimbursement, travel to Springfield is covered by per diem, but legislative travel within a district can receive mileage, etc from the district office allotment. I heard that former Rep. Brunsvold even leased a vehicle from his office allotment for official use, but can't personally confirm this detail.
This is pretty close to the full extent of the taxpayer subsidy that a sitting Senator or Representative is entitled to receive, I’m sure there are a few minor details I’ve overlooked, but I believe I’ve covered all the biggies.
Of course none of this even touches the issue of a General Assembly member’s campaign fundraising and use of their war chest for personal benefit, that’s another topic for another time. This topic deserves it’s own discussion because there are few restrictions in Illinois on the use of campaign funds for personal benefit. Some officials, like Brunsvold, were able to keep significant parts of their campaign coffers for use in retirement, but recent ethics legislation has limited that practice to an extent.