Illinois legislators among best paid in nation

November 29, 2012 (SPRINGFIELD, Ill.)

That's the finding of a new Better Government Association review of lawmaker pay in Illinois.

In fact, Illinois legislators enjoy some of the best pay and benefits packages in the nation.

"To have someone, especially a new person, come in from the outside and say, 'You're not worth the money you're being paid,' that's a very upsetting thing to hear and feel," said State Representative Michelle Mussman (D-Schaumberg).

But that's precisely what freshman Representative Mussman did. Among the very first bills she introduced was one to lower lawmaker pay.

Data obtained by the Better Government Association reveals that the average Illinois lawmaker's base salary is $67,836.

Only four states pay their lawmakers more.

But add in bonuses for serving on committees and Illinois' average legislator pay jumps to more than $77,382.

"There's a lot of others that make a lot more than we do," said State Senator Antonio Munoz (D-Chicago).

"I'm not doing this job because of the legislative salary, otherwise I would have quit a long time ago," said State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago).

"Cutting the salary of every legislator in half wouldn't save us a lot of money," said University of Illinois-Springfield's Kent Redfield. "If they can actually solve some problems it's probably money well spent."

As is often the case in Springfield, the perks don't end with pay.

Lawmakers are also eligible for state subsidized health care coverage after they leave office and a pension.

The Better Government Association also found 50 percent of lawmakers also earn outside income, sometimes from work that may benefit from their political connections.

"Call it a happy coincidence, but it happens all too often that those in the general assembly know the laws, helped write the laws and they are helping people get around those laws,' said Bob Reed of the Better Government Association.

The bill to lower legislative pay is stalled in the Senate where it has little chance of seeing a vote.

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