Second Raise for Illinois State Lawmakers Included in Budget After Voting themselves 16% raise in January

Natalie Frank, Ph.D.

Illinois Budget Includes $5,000 Pay Raise for Lawmakers which is their second raise this year, despite many residents' financial struggles due to inflation
Illinois City HallPhoto byKen Lund/flickr [CC BY 2.0]

Illinois lawmakers are set to receive a pay raise of nearly $5,000 as part of the state budget, marking their second increase this year. The raise, amounting to approximately 5.6%, will raise lawmakers' base pay to $89,675 per year once Governor J.B. Pritzker signs the budget into law. This recent pay raise comes after lawmakers had previously voted for a 16% increase in January, increasing their salaries to $85,000. Some lawmakers in leadership positions are paid even more.

The inclusion of this pay raise in the budget has sparked discussions and raised eyebrows among the public. Some have questioned the necessity and timing of these increases, particularly in light of the state's ongoing fiscal challenges. However, the raise is technically mandated by state law, ensuring that lawmakers receive a salary commensurate with their responsibilities and duties.

Critics argue that the timing of this increase raises concerns, given the state's financial situation and the pressing needs that require attention and funding. Illinois faces significant budgetary challenges, including a large pension shortfall. The state's five pension funds reportedly require $15.4 billion in contributions for 2024, yet lawmakers plan to contribute only the statutory minimum of approximately $10.9 billion, creating a significant imbalance.

Additionally, the large amount of money needed to house more than 10,000 migrants with 700 more arriving each day in Chicago, as well as provide them with medical care, have city residents complaining that two raises in a year is unreasonable, as residents are the ones who will most likely end up footing the bill through tax increases. The state budget includes significantly less than Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson requested to help the cities migrants and the amount is to be used for the entire state not just Chicago.

Facilities being turned into shelters for migrants also means that services and programs that were to be provided for residents have been canceled and Chicagoans won't have access to numerous public park buildings for themselves or their children at least through the summer, the time when the facilities are used the most. For many, alternate summer plans will cost families more than they budgeted for.

Lawmakers, on the other hand, defend the pay raises, highlighting the importance of attracting and retaining qualified individuals in public service. They argue that higher salaries can help attract capable individuals who may otherwise be discouraged from pursuing careers in politics due to financial considerations. Additionally, proponents believe that increased compensation can reduce the potential for corruption or the temptation for lawmakers to seek outside income, ensuring their focus remains on serving the public interest.

Although a standard of living increase is required, in previous years, state legislators voted not to take it.

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Chicago, IL

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