COMMITTEES PROVIDE POLITICAL PAY RAISES FOR STATE LAWMAKERS
Illinois Policy Institute
Buried in the House rules lawmakers passed
in January are a dozen new committees, bringing the total number of
standing committees in the House to 45. Committee chairs receive a
$10,326 stipend annually.
GOOD GOVERNMENT / Article
February 24, 2017
In Illinois, bloat doesnít discriminate.
Itís not just government agencies that stick taxpayers with the bill for
inefficient operations. Itís state lawmakers, too. Yes, the same ones who
havenít passed a balanced budget in over a decade.
Illinois lawmakers take home the fifth-highest base salary in the nation for
what is technically part-time work. But that nearly $68,000 paycheck isnít all
they get. Lawmakers get some easy money from their party bosses as well.
Itís really a great deal. This bonus is not based on performance. Itís not even
based on effort. Itís based on loyalty.
Iím speaking of the Illinois General Assemblyís committee racket. The Land of
Lincoln is like no other state when it comes to doling out pay hikes to
politicians for the privilege of chairing a committee.
Buried in the House rules lawmakers passed in January are a dozen new
committees, bringing the total number of standing committees in the House to 45.
Thatís more than one committee for every three state representatives. House
Speaker Mike Madigan will handpick the chair of each standing committee, in
addition to 11 special committees. Committee chairs receive a $10,326 stipend
No other state House in the country pays a bonus to this many standing committee
chairs, according to an analysis of each stateís legislative bodies and 2016
data from the National Council on State Legislatures. Illinois is an outlier.
And in the spirit of bipartisanship, Republicans get in on the game as well. The
minority spokesperson for every committee gets the same stipend as their
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Why stop at 45 committees? Why not create a special committee for
each of the 118 House members? Surely the state has enough problems
to warrant such bold action.
Or Illinois could come down to earth and cut the number of House
committees in half, putting it closer in line with states like
Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio. More committees clearly doesnít
equal better governance.
But the sad joke of the Illinois House is that virtually none of
its committees matter all that much.
Most of the power rests in the Rules Committee, which is chaired by
longtime Madigan lackey Barbara Flynn Currie. Every House bill
begins in the Rules Committee. And if Madigan doesnít like it, it
dies there, never to be heard from again. It is virtually impossible
for rank-and-file lawmakers to discharge a bill from Rules.
The Illinois House is one of only two House chambers in the country
that muzzles debate in such an extreme manner.
The system is so broken that some House committees barely bother
meeting at all. Nine committees had fewer than five meetings in
2015. For the chairs, thatís $10,326 for less than a long dayís
And it isnít just a House problem. The Illinois Senate operates
similarly, adding four new standing committees in January. Only the
New York Senate pays bonuses to more standing committee chairs than
the Illinois Senate.
In fact, the Illinois Senateís 26 standing committees are enough to
give every Republican state senator in Illinois a minority
spokesperson position, and the accompanying five-figure stipend.
Perhaps this sort of treatment is why some feel friendly enough to
cut a deal with Democrats to hike taxes by billions of dollars.
Where does it end? The General Assemblyís committee craze is trophy
culture at its worst. When you give an award to almost everybody, it
stops meaning much.
Unless youíre the one picking up the tab.
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