Increase cabinet payments to ‘bring and keep great people’

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois. – The idea of ​​raising the salaries of top Illinois state government officials, which culminated this weekend with the House ballot lawmakers an 18% pay risestarted with Governor JB Pritzker.

But the Democratic governor said he originally requested that the General Assembly raise salaries for his administration’s agency directors to attract and retain top talent. Pritzker said he would not presume to tell the General Assembly what its members should pay.

“The legislature is an equal branch of government,” Pritzker said Saturday at a pre-inauguration community service event at the Central Illinois Foodbank. “They haven’t had a raise since the Great Recession, so I can see why there’s an interest.”

Lame Duck lawmakers are scrambling to resolve last-minute — and mostly critical and contentious — issues before the 103rd General Assembly swears in on Wednesday.

On Friday night, the House of Representatives approved a plan to increase mid-fiscal spending, including $850 million for the state’s “rainy day” fund, $400 million for attracting businesses and an annual increase in base salaries $12,904 for members of the House of Representatives and Senate. In addition to this $85,000 salary, most members receive at least $12,000 or more in stipends for additional assignments.

“We don’t want a legislature made up entirely of the wealthy,” said House Majority Leader Greg Harris, the Chicago Democratic sponsor of the legislation, who is retiring Tuesday. “We want people who are running for office who are serving their community but also being able to pay for their families and children.”

The last increase for lawmakers was in 2008, and out of concern for appearances, lawmakers voted against an increase every year through 2019 House surprised the Senate by backing down an agreed inflation freeze. Since then, a fixed COLA increase has been passed.

Pritzker originally commissioned a national salary study of jobs comparable to those in his cabinet. This resulted in pay increases for 21 agency directors reporting to the governor.

Pritzker, a billionaire stock investor and philanthropist, began his tenure as governor in 2019 by supplementing the salaries of key employees from his own checking account.

“People are willing to take a reduced salary from what they could get in the private sector to get into public service, but you really have to be somewhat competitive. People put their kids through college, or they pay their mortgages or rent. …” said Pritzker. “We just want to be competitive and bring in great people and then keep great people in state government.”

From there, negotiators added pay increases for six statewide constitutional officials. The proposal is awaiting action from the Senate, which is due to meet Sunday night. For the increases in constitutional officers to take effect immediately, they must be signed into law before those officers are sworn in to four years on Monday afternoon in the capital.

The increases for most are in the 10% range. For example, the Lieutenant Governor, Comptroller, and Treasurer would see a 10% increase to $160,900. Attorney General and Secretary of State will see paychecks up 9% to $183,300. The governor makes $205,700, although Pritzker doesn’t take it.

For agency heads, the legislation sets a minimum salary, but allows the governor to go beyond that. And each would receive an annual cost-of-living adjustment. The maximum salary specified in the bill is $200,000, which would go to heads of eight agencies: the departments of children and family services, correctional services, human services, innovation and technology, public health, state police, transportation, and veterans’ affairs.

The Senate’s consideration of the matter leaves less time for the session’s other two main topics: House-approved bans on specific individuals semi-automatic weapons and to legal action from outside of Illinois is aimed at people who travel here for abortions or gender-affirming medical treatments.

The gun ban rises from the 4th of July Parade in Highland Park where a gunman killed seven and injured 30, is sponsored by Rep. Bob Morgan, a Deerfield Democrat who attended the parade. It would ban nearly seven dozen specific types of rapid-fire pistols and rifles and likely faces a competing Senate bill.

Likewise, the Senate is working on a separate proposal that would protect people who receive — or who perform — abortions or gender-affirming treatments from legal action in states that have restricted access to those procedures, particularly abortions, since the last Supreme Court Summer overturned Roe v. Calf.


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Sarah Y. Kim

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