The Problem Previous Institute reports have shown how officials within Illinois’s legislative and judicial branches are paid significantly higher than national averages. Illinois state representatives and senators earn a base salary of $67,836—the fifth-highest legislator salary in the country. Only California, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania pay their legislators more.
Judges serving on the state’s circuit courts enjoy the second highest salaries in the country; judges on the Illinois Appellate Court have the second highest salaries in the nation, behind only California; justices serving on the state Supreme Court have the third highest salaries in the country; the Illinois court administrator makes more than any court administrator in other states.
This Spotlight reveals how the problem extends into Illinois’s executive branch as well.
Despite all of its budget problems, and despite the fact Illinois ranks in the middle of the pack when it comes to cost of living, Illinois also manages to pay its top officers very well. So well, in fact, that Illinois has some of the highest paid executive officers compared to other states. For the position of governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, and comptroller, Illinois lands in the “Top 10” ranking of highest salary earners in 2010.
Our Solution Accountability for the state’s budget woes should start at the top. Illinois’s executive officers shouldn’t be paid more than the nationwide average salary for each position.
The high-profile individuals in these jobs can make a strong statement by voluntarily rolling back their own pay. Alternatively, the state could implement a pay cut or freeze until the budget deficit is eliminated.
Other states have taken such measures and instituted pay cuts or pay freezes.
In December 2008, for example, Pennsylvania’s Governor Ed Rendell sought to save $14.3 million by announcing a pay freeze on all non-union state employees and asking cabinet and executive officers to donate their cost of living increases back to the commonwealth.
Also in December 2008, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels put a freeze on pay increases for all state employees, including himself, legislators, judges and other state office holders, in order to help tackle his state’s budget deficit.
Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman instituted a pay freeze for code agency directors and top management personnel in light of a then-scheduled pay increase for July 2010, saying, “In these challenging economic times, I believe that it is important for us to lead by example. Last week, the Constitutional Officers and I said we would take a four year pay freeze.”
Illinois lawmakers decided against a personal pay increase scheduled for July 2010. This was a positive move, especially considering the fact Illinois legislators have the fifth-highest salary in the country, but there is more to do.
Why This Works Compared to other states, executive officer salaries in Illinois rank in the top five highest paid for governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, and attorney general, while ranking in the top 10 highest salaries nationwide for treasurer and comptroller. Illinois Policy Institute reports indicate Illinois legislators and judicial officers are highly paid compared to national averages, as well.
Are residents getting their money’s worth? Illinois’s current budget and pension situation suggest otherwise.
Illinois needs to make sure it uses tax dollars as efficiently and fairly as possible, especially when taxpayers throughout the state are working hard to support their families and communities during tough economic times.