STUMP » Articles » Illinois Finances Watch: Places to Cut » 22 July 2015, 15:35

Where Stu & MP spout off about everything.

Illinois Finances Watch: Places to Cut  


22 July 2015, 15:35

There is budget wrangling going on in Illinois. Yes, there’s the whole pension debt, Chicago problems, etc. hanging over them, but it seems that both sides are playing hardball (for now).

The Madigans (dad runs the General Assembly, daughter is attorney general) tried to step up the pain by having state employees be not paid at all while the budget remained at an impasse. There was a ruling that state employees must be paid federal minimum wage, but there had been a different ruling as well, and maybe the court cases will be settled before the budget is passed.

Cullerton is the Illinois Senate President but he’s not inclined to play ball either.

I’m not going to link to the proposed taxes that are out there. I’m in a giving mood, so I have some advice at where things could be cut.


Seems like a gimme to me:

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois taxpayers spent $1.23 million this past year to provide health insurance to state lawmakers, despite the fact that the jobs are part-time and the state is broke.

This perk of office is under fire from a surprising source — a group of state lawmakers.

“This is a part-time job. There is absolutely no reason that it should have health insurance and a pension provided, especially at a time like this when the state is hurting financially,” said State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills.

McSweeney, along with 33 other lawmakers — about one-fifth of the General Assembly — are refusing to accept the health insurance benefits.

Illinois lawmakers have afforded themselves one of the most generous health insurance plans available; far better than that of most of their constituents who are ultimately paying for it, said Naomi Lopez Bauman, a health policy analyst for the Goldwater Institute.

In fact, the plan is so generous that it is considered a “Cadillac plan” under the Affordable Care Act. In 2018, the state could begin paying an excise tax to the federal government for the lawmakers’ health insurance plans.
But some lawmakers dispute whether the plan they receive is all that generous.

“I’m not getting any ‘Cadillac plan.’ What I receive, I pay for. They take it right out of my checks,” state Rep. Mary Flowers, D-Chicago, said.

According to state records, Flowers’ contributions cover 17 percent of the total cost of her health insurance premium.

Actually, the taxpayers paid for that. Not you.


Let’s check out the national statistics on the share of premium paid by employees.

Hmmm, seems that the 17% is on a par with employees paying for single coverage, but that they have to pay much more for family coverage. What type do you have, Rep. Flowers?

But wait, let’s go back to the article:

Unlike other jobs, lawmakers can continue to receive the health insurance benefits for the rest of their lives — after serving in the Legislature for as little as eight years.

Uh yeah. That’s not cool at all.

The General Assembly pension plan already has awful funding levels, but this particular lifetime perk sounds pretty damn costly to me, if they did a full accounting of it.

While the pensions and other benefits for these little lords are really not what’s breaking the bank in Illinois, I think it would show solidarity with the taxpayer if they dropped all these emoluments, eh?


I’m not talking about Pepsi here, but the automatic cost-of-living adjustment to Illinois politicians’ salaries.

It seems that even as there is no budget, the pols will get their dough:

Rauner on Tuesday again complained that lawmakers are in line for a pay raise while the budget impasse continues. Lawmakers are entitled to an automatic cost of living adjustment, although they have voted to reject it in recent years.

The raise this year is 2 percent, which will increase their annual pay by $1,300 at least. Lawmakers make a base salary of $67,836, although most earn more because they hold top committee or leadership posts.

“If they are going to take a $1,300 pay hike for themselves, they should start earning that pay,” Rauner said.

Madigan called the pay raise issue a “diversion.”

“The governor is attempting to divert attention away from solutions to the problem of the budget,” Madigan said, noting that the budget sent to the governor did not include money for the raises.

Nonetheless, the Democrat-controlled House refused to take up a Republican-sponsored bill Tuesday that would have specifically rejected the pay raises.

The optics are bad. You have the state employees possibly being paid minimum wage through this crap, and y’all get your automatic boost?

That’s not good at all.

But more to the point: what has the wage increase for Illinois taxpayers been? Do they get an automatic raise each year?


I found this excellent data set and interactive graphics, and took a snapshot of the Illinois experience:

I’m going to need to dig into their data set (if I can get the raw data from them or the Bureau of Labor Statistics, later), but for now I’m going to take their numbers as on-the-level. Also, I need to see if I can get the data updated to at least 2014.

These are inflation-adjusted numbers, so people could have had their wage levels stay the same or increase in nominal terms, and still see this erosion in real wages. But the point is: even the median has decreased. More than the majority are not getting increases in line with inflation.

Maybe these pols hang out only with the high-income people they imagine will be the only sufferers of increased taxes, and thus see no problem with their COLAs. They get a pretty fine wage for a part-time job.

If you go to the page I link, you’ll see that mean wages have increased, but that’s again because those high-income people have seen their incomes go up. That pulls up the average. It’s better to look at medians and percentiles when you want an idea of what percentage of the population have not been doing well.


While, again, the specific money amount that Illinois pols are “due” in these programs is very small relative to Illinois’s outsized spending problem, it’s a bit rich to be cutting everybody else — and that includes the taxpayers — and getting your little bump.

Perhaps you should suck it up and take the hit with everybody else, eh?

Perhaps y’all should take an even bigger hit than everybody else, don’t you think?

I know they don’t want to cut anything, but like Greece, they are getting to the point where not cutting isn’t a viable choice.

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