Peg Breslin’s Gift to State Elected Officials Being Repealed

House Speaker Mike Madigan is reacting to dissatisfaction from Illinois citizens.

On the day after California voters overwhelmingly (look at the graphs for the overwhelming nature–62% to 66%–of the results) rejected referendums to hike taxes, but more overwhelmingly (74%) approved freezing legislative salaries whenever the state was deficit spending, Madigan moved to abolish the Compensation Review Board.

So, he got one message.

Anyone think that Madigan will hear the other anti-tax message?

The Compensation Review Board is a legislative leader-appointed board that, believe it or not, was responsive to legislative leaders’ desire to pay their followers more.

Without having to endure a vote, as was the case before and apparently shall be in the future.

Judges will keep getting a cost of living increase because the judges filed suit when a past General Assembly froze legislative and judicial salaries and, (guess what?) won.

State Rep. Bill Black (R-Danville) pointed out that the judges having required a continuation of their COLAs was like having the “fox guard the chicken coop.”

But back to 1978.

There had been massive inflation during the mid-1970’s and from 1974 to 1978, legislators did not vote to increase their salaries.

Finally, the $20,000 salary set in 1974 fell too far behind the skyrocketing increase in the cost of living and legislators voted to raise their salaries 40%. I’ve written a bit about it here. (There are also period photos of me which some think make me look like Woody Allen.)

The public outcry was immense.

The Peoria Journal-Star ran pictures on the front page of every legislator in its circulation area for weeks.

Then citizen-activist Pat Quinn passed petitions that eventually led to elimination of one-third of the members of the Illinois House. Needless to say, the public was so angry that the resulting referendum passed.

At the same time, good legislators like full-time state representative Don Anderson of LaSalle County lost the next election.

After things had cooled down, sometime in the 1980’s, Peg Breslin sponsored the Compensation Review Board.

Later, after having a child, she was elected Appellate Court Justice, which, apparently an ideal office to hold and raise a child.

In the 1990’s, Breslin came back to lobby her former colleagues for a judicial pay raise. She pointedly reminded House members that she had sponsored the law that relieved them of the need to go on the public record with a vote to increase their own salaries.

Now, Breslin’s legacy is gone, except for the automatic cost-of-living increases Illinois judges ruled could not be taken away from themselves.

The bill passed, needless to say.

Breslin is now retired, replaced by another female state representative, Mary K. O’Brien, who has two children.

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