Editorial: Pull plug on legislators’ windfall pay scam

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Editorial: Pull plug on legislators’ windfall pay scam

— Champaign News Gazette | Editorial Board —

Public policy that, by design, institutionalizes abuse of taxpayers ought to be repealed.

How’s this for ridiculous?

Illinois taxpayers are/were on the hook for the full monthly February salaries of three members of the Illinois House who represented the same 22nd District in Chicago.

Yes, it’s true, fully authorized by state law. One of those entitled to a $6,788 payday had the decency to turn it down. But the other two — former House Speaker Michael Madigan and his successor, Angelica Guerrero-Cuellar — will be collecting their pay.

This sounds pretty odd, so a full explanation is in order.

Illinois’ selfless legislators have written the law, so they are entitled to a full month’s salary even if they are on the payroll for only one day of the month in question.

That’s why so many of these money grubbers who’ve fallen from grace — state Reps. Luis Arroyo and Nick Sauer and the late state Sen. Martin Sandoval — timed their resignations to take effect on the first day of the month that they left.

In the finest tradition of bipartisanship, members of both parties do it.

State Comptroller Susana Mendoza has proposed legislation that would change the formula. Her plan is to pay legislators for the days they actually work — eliminating the one-day windfall approach.

In other words, it would be a day’s pay for a day’s work rather than a month’s pay for a day’s work.

Former Speaker Michael Madigan’s recent resignation helped publicize this outrageous abuse of taxpayer money.

His February resignation entitled him to a month’s pay. He then oversaw the Feb. 21 appointment of his successor, Edward Guerra Kodatt, who resigned two days later after undisclosed allegations of personal misconduct. Kodatt’s 53 hours as a state representative entitled him to full pay for the month, a windfall he sensibly rejected.

After Kodatt resigned under pressure, Guerrero-Cuellar was appointed Feb. 25. Her three-day February tenure entitles her to a full month’s pay.

This kind of abuse of taxpayers is seldom so obvious. It much more frequently runs under the radar screen, the resignation announcements that just accidentally on purpose take effect on the first of the month. The windfall timing is sometimes not even mentioned in the news coverage.

Perhaps the Madigan fiasco will change that. It is, after all, impossible to justify these kind of moronic expenditures that legislators have approved for purely self-serving motives. That’s particularly so given Illinois’ desperately poor financial situation.

Mendoza originally introduced her proposal in 2020 to a remarkably unenthusiastic response from legislators. This time, however, it’s received a boost from the kind of embarrassing publicity needed to compel legislators to do the right thing for the wrong reason.

If legislators are really serious — a dubious notion, at best — about ethics reform, Mendoza’s salary-modification proposal is the kind of low-hanging fruit that should be approved in a heartbeat.

View the article: Editorial Board (2021, March 3). Editorial | Pull plug on legislators’ windfall pay scam. Champaign News Gazette. Retrieved from www.news-gazette.com

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