Friday, August 27, 2021
SPRINGFIELD – Illinois State Comptroller Susana Mendoza’s “no exit bonus/no signing bonus” reform was included in a broader package of legislative ethics reforms Governor J.B. Pritzker advanced Friday.
The governor issued an amendatory veto of the bill to address a technical drafting error unrelated to the “no exit bonus” portion of the bill. Lawmakers must vote to approve the minor change.
The measure would end the shady practice of legislators leaving the General Assembly in disgrace but dating their exit on the first day of the following month to claim an extra month’s pay for a day’s work.
“This is a matter of common sense and accountability,” Mendoza said. “Waitresses and factory workers don’t collect a month’s pay for a day’s work, and legislators don’t deserve that luxury either – especially on the backs of Illinois taxpayers.”
For years, legislators of both parties exploited a loophole in state law allowing them to resign on the first day of the month and collect the whole month’s pay or get sworn in at month’s end but claim a whole month’s pay.
Former State Rep. Luis Arroyo of Chicago, charged with bribery; the late former State Sen. Martin Sandoval of Chicago, who pleaded guilty to federal bribery and tax charges; and former State Rep. Nick Sauer of Lake Barrington, charged with online sex crimes, all took advantage of that loophole in state law in recent years.
In February, three legislators could all claim a month’s pay in the 22nd Legislative District following the retirement of former Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan. To his credit, former State Rep. Edward Kodatt declined the month’s salary he was entitled to for his two days in office.
The comptroller’s original no exit/no signing bonus measure (House Bill 3104, Senate Bill 484) was incorporated into the legislature’s omnibus ethics legislation (Senate Bill 539), which had overwhelming bipartisan support in both chambers and was sent to the governor for his signature in June.
“Our bipartisan plan ends the ‘pay for nothing game’ by pro-rating lawmaker salaries,” said State Sen. Ann Gillespie (D-Arlington Heights) who sponsored the omnibus ethics package in the Senate. “No one should be paid for work they didn’t do, especially when at the taxpayer’s expense.”
State Rep. Kelly Burke (D-Evergreen Park), who sponsored the reform package in the House, said, “It is well past time to throw out the bad practice of paying legislators a month’s pay for a day’s work on their way out of office. This is just one of the ethical problems our package corrects as we seek to rebuild a state government that taxpayers can trust.”
State law dictates that any changes to legislators’ salaries cannot take effect until the next General Assembly is sworn in, so these new rules take effect in January 2022.
Comptroller Mendoza expressed appreciation for the support of the original sponsors of her no exit/no signing bonus proposal – State Sen. Cristina Castro (D-Elgin) and State Rep. Katie Stuart (D-Edwardsville).
“The ethics reform package takes great strides to address the ongoing ethics issues in Illinois government,” Castro said. “From demanding greater transparency in lobbying and financial disclosure, to ending the practice of giving full salaries to General Assembly members who leave their terms early, this law would build on the foundation we’ve already built. I will continue to act as needed to stand up against corruption.”
Stuart, also a sponsor of the ethics package, said the time has come to put an end to special perks like exit and signing bonuses for lawmakers.
“I frequently hear from residents in the Metro East who believe state government should be more transparent and ethical, and I agree with them. Putting a stop to exit bonuses and signing bonuses for lawmakers was a logical step toward those goals,” Stuart said. “Politicians should not get special perks. This particular provision in the ethics package will help save the state money while also setting higher ethical standards for officeholders.”