The idea for raising salaries of top Illinois state government officials, which culminated this weekend with the House voting lawmakers an 18% pay hike, began with Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
But the Democratic governor said he originally requested that the General Assembly increase pay for his administration’s agency directors to recruit and retain top talent. Pritzker said he wouldn’t presume to tell the General Assembly what its members should be paid.
Pritzker said Saturday the Legislature is a coequal branch of government and hasn't had a raise since before the Great Recession and so understands why there’s an interest in doing that.
Lame-duck lawmakers are scrambling to act on last-minute — and mostly critical and contentious — issues before the 103rd General Assembly is sworn in on Wednesday.
Friday night, the House endorsed a plan to increase spending halfway through the budget year, including $850 million for the state’s “rainy day” fund, $400 million for attracting business, and a $12,904 annual increase in base pay for members of the House and Senate. On top of that $85,000 salary, most members get at least $12,000 or more as stipends for extra duties.
The last raise for legislators came in 2008, and concerned about the optics, lawmakers voted against any increase each year until 2019, when the House surprised the Senate by backing out of an agreed-to freeze on cost-of-living increases. A locked-in COLA increase has since been adopted.
Pritzker originally commissioned a national salary study of jobs comparable to those of his cabinet. The led to pay raises for 21 agency directors who answer to the governor.
Pritzker, a multibillionaire equity investor and philanthropist, began his tenure as governor in 2019 by supplementing salaries of key staff members out of his own checking account.
From there, negotiators added in pay raises for six statewide constitutional officers. The proposal awaits action by the Senate, which plans to meet Sunday night. For the constitutional officers’ raises to take effect immediately, they must be signed into law before those officers are sworn in to four-year terms Monday afternoon in the capital.
The raises for most are in the 10% range. The lieutenant governor, comptroller and treasurer, for example, would see 10% increases to $160,900. The attorney general and secretary of state will see 9% more in their paychecks, to $183,300. The governor earns $205,700, although Pritzker does not take it.
For agency heads, the legislation sets a salary minimum but allows the governor to go above that. And each would receive an annual cost of living adjustment. The top salary set in the bill is $200,000, which would go to chiefs at eight agencies: the departments of Children and Family Services, Corrections, Human Services, Innovation and Technology, Public Health, State Police, Transportation and Veterans Affairs.