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Another View

They’re in the money

Illinois may be a failing state, but its legislators are flush.

God bless the black-hearted members of the state House and Senate – they stand to get a windfall pay raise that will place them among the top-five highest-paid state legislatures in the country.

Two former state legislators filed a lawsuit challenging the propriety of pay freezes members of the House and Senate voluntarily – and symbolically – took between 2009 and 2016 to show hard-times budget solidarity with the public.

Now a Cook County judge has paved the way for the lawsuit to proceed, creating the likelihood of a salary bonanza.

Financial analysts at Wirepoints outlined the damages to the state treasury.

“That could cost taxpayers an additional $13 million in total back pay for lawmakers. On top of that, taxpayers could also be forced to pay penalty interest on the back pay. And worst of all, those higher salaries will end up boosting the pension benefits of lawmakers by hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

“An average career lawmaker retiring in 2020 at age 60 can expect to receive more than $375,000 in additional pension benefits over their retirement if their 2020 salary is boosted to $81,700,” write Wirepoints’ Ted Dabrowski and John Klingner.

Illinois lawmakers could soon be receiving the nation’s fourth-highest legislative salaries as a result of a lawsuit filed by state Sens. Michael Noland of Elgin and James Clayborne of East St. Louis.

They allege language in the Illinois Constitution bars legislators from making any changes in their compensation during their terms of office. Judge Franklin Valderrama agreed.

Legislators currently are paid $67,836 in salary in addition to a pension and generous perks. The vast majority of them also receive generous stipends for serving in party or committee leadership positions.

Legislative salaries have been a touchy issue for years in Springfield. Each time they raised their pay, taxpayers complained. So legislators ultimately established a bogus salary commission that authorizes pay hikes without legislators having to vote for them and risk public ire.

Now they have arranged for a judge to strike down the pay hikes they appeared to voluntarily reject.

The good news, of course, is members of the House and Senate are worth whatever amount they’re paid. After all, look at how well our effectively bankrupt ship of state is run. That kind of management doesn’t come free.

The (Champaign) News-Gazette

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