Raising Elected Officials Salaries – Not!

The Human Resources Committee held a meeting on April 2nd which I attended.

The reason was the following agenda item:

Discussion on Establishing Elected Officials’ Salaries

Former County Board member Kathy Bergan Schmidt urged the committee to end mileage reimbursement for County Board members.

Former County Board member Kathy Bergan Schmidt urged the committee to end mileage reimbursement for County Board members.

During public comment time, former Board member Kathy Bergan-Schmidt encouraged members to “drop the reimbursement for mileage.

“This is a perk that doesn’t belong in a budget today.”

She pointed out that only John Jung, who lives in Bull Valley and who chairs the committee, did not take this form of compensation.

The salary consideration was at the bottom of the agenda.

That’s where I started taking notes.

County Administrator Peter Austin came to the table “to remind the committee…on timing this committee has used in the past.

“Salaries would be set in the year prior to [to when people take office]…prior to making a decision on whether to pass petitions,” he added.

“That’s an issue that’s going to start with this committee.

“My suggestion is that you allow staff to do some of the legwork for you,” Austin continued, referring to doing a study to see what salaries are paid in other counties.

“I’d love to do that for you…and offer you suggestions.”

“I like that idea,” Wonder Lake’s Sue Draffkorn said.

“It’s always nice to have comps,” Committee Chairman John Jung interjected.

Austin suggested that decisions should be made by the end of September or October.

Candidates for the March, 2016, primary election can begin passing petitions in September.

The Human Resources Committee rejected County Administrator Peter Austin's request to perform an elected official salary comparison.

The Human Resources Committee rejected County Administrator Peter Austin’s request to perform an elected official salary comparison.

Hartland Township’s Diane Evertsen was not encouraging.

“I’m sure you and I will have different opinions on this.

“My people don’t live in Lake County and don’t care [want officials there earn].

“[They say,] I’m the employer.

“How does it happen that the employee is making more than the employer?”

Evertsen clearly did not want salaries raised.

“We have population flight from McHenry County.

“Just keep giving our electives more money, just watch the flight continue.

“Holy cow!  I’m going to make more than the others.

“If they do, they [potential canddiates] should look for another hobby.”

“Your comments don’t surprise me,” Austin replied.

“Frankly, I don’t see our Recorder walking out the door to run to DuPage County,” Evertsen observed.

Cary’s Yvonne Barnes was next to speak.

“Two years ago the Human Resources Committee did decide not to pursue that [comparing salaries with other counties].

“I don’t see…a strong push to [do it now].

“I’m still in that category.”

“Who initiated this [agenda item]?” Crystal Lake’s Donna Kurtz asked.

“Me,” replied Austin.

“I don’t want any study to be done.

“Why are you always increasing things.

“The taxpayers are absolutely not going to accept any electeds’ salary increases.

“We have fewer taxpayers.

“I’m not interested in a comparison salary survey.

“My position is ‘No.’

“We’re not increasing any salaries.”

“I’m not going to advocate,” Austin said.

Nunda Township’s Don Kopsell pointed out that “elected positions are not competitive.

“If someone says, ‘This is only paying X amount of money, [so I won’t run.  Let them].

“In the case of elected officials, service to the public should be driving the process.”

Barnes did say that the salary of the new County Board Chairman, to be elected at-large needed to be considered.

“Since that was Jack Franks’ idea, maybe we can have a state stipend,” Jung suggested.

He explained how increasing salaries of more than $100,000 a year keeps multiplying when there are annual hikes.

“$15,000 in four years.

“We finally decided, ‘Let’s stop giving them raises anymore.'”

Jung did suggest that “the elected officials may come in with some information.”

Evertsen looked at Austin and observed,

“Just saved you some work.”

“He needed direction and I think he has it,” Jung added.

“Oh, it’s clear now,” Austin concluded.


Raising Elected Officials Salaries – Not! — 9 Comments

  1. Salaries should be frozen until pensions are fully funded.

    Think pension benefits are too high?

    You are correct.

    How did that happen?

    Legislators and Governors created laws to hike pension benefits even though pensions were already underfunded.

    That practice escalated after one sentence was added to the Illinois State Constitution in 1970, stating that pensions are contractual and cannot be diminished or impaired.

    “Membership in any pension or retirement system of the State, any unit of local government or school district, or any agency or instrumentality thereof, shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.”

    In the Kanerva v Weems decision in 2014 in the Illinois Supreme Court, “retirement system” was found to mean retiree healthcare, so now retiree healthcare and pensions are protected from being diminished (but not hiked) in the Illinois State Constitution.

    What does that mean?

    That means public sector workers are protected.

    That means taxpayers are not protected.

    Legislators passed House Bills and Senate Bills, which Governors signed into Public Acts, to hike pension and retiree healthcare benefits, from 1971 – 2011 in particular.

    It was as easy as picking dandelions.

    Pension benefits were hiked via the legislative process even though pensions were underfunded.

    It was deliberate and intentional and done will the blessing of public sector unions, who were saying all along, “The State is not making its full pension payment.”

    No one called out the unions as a bunch of hypocrites and phonies.

    If they were so worried about underfunded pensions, why did they advocate for hiking pensions and diverting funding from pensions?

    For example, salaries were hiked even though pensions were underfunded.

    Funding was diverted from pensions to salary hikes and retiree healthcare benefit hikes, even though pensions were underfunded.

    The first and foremost purpose of government in Illinois is salary and benefit hikes for politicians and public sector unions.

  2. What else should be done to fix this mess.

    Pension Benefit Hike Clawbacks to benefits not yet accrued.

    Retiree Healthcare Benefit Hike Clawbacks to benefits not yet accrued.

    Start at the last pension benefit hike, and claw them back one by one until pensions are fully funded.

    That would require passing a House Bill or Senate Bill, which the Governor would sign into a Public Act.

    Such a bill would have no chance of passing the House or Senate with the current Democrat Super majority.

    But that should not prevent filing a bill to press coverage of the benefit hike problem.

    Anyone who says benefit hikes are not a major cause of underfunding has not gone back to 1970 and compared 1970 benefits to current benefits.

    Of course pensions would not be underfunded if the State, County, and Local Governments had made the full actuarial payments annually, as if the taxpayer is supposed to accept unlimited pay and benefit hikes.

    Most County employees participate in IMRF, one of 19 pension funds in the Illinois Pension Code.

    IMRF Pension benefits and rules have been changes over the years, as is the case with all the pension funds.

    Illinois legislators and Governors are infamous for changing pension rules, arguably moreso than most if not all states.

    These changes were almost always for the employee and against the taxpayer and not fully disclosed to the public.

    Diverting from IMRF but staying with the theme of pension benefit hikes, there can also be pension benefit continuations, which would expire if the programs are not continued by a Public Act, and those those are basically pension benefit hikes also.

    One of the last benefit hikes was the Early Retirement Option (ERO) Extension which extended ERO through June 30, 2016, at which point it expires unless renewed.

    That was Senate Bill 1366 (SB 1366) which Governor Pat Quinn signed as Public Act 98-0042 (PA 98-0042).

    Here’s a little information about that law.

    There have been several renewals of ERO.

    It was found during this last renewal, that contributions were not high enough to fully fund the program.

    The taxpayers were forced to make up the difference for past contributions.

    Going forward, contributions were increased, as recommended by the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA), which is part of the Illinois General Assembly.

    However, once again, if contributions are short, the taxpayers will be forced to make up the the difference.

    ERO is present, in various forms, is or has been present in various retirement systems.

    Let’s look at ERO as it exists today in the largest retirement system in Illinois, Teachers Retirement System of Illinois (TRS).

    A one-time employee contribution of 14.4 percent of salary is required, for every year the member is under age 60; OR for every year the member’s creditable service is less than 35 years; whichever is less.

    The previous one-time employee contribution was 11.5 percent.

    A one-time employee contribution of 29.3 percent of the member’s salary is required, for every year the member is under age 60.

    The previous one-time employer contribution was 23.5 percent.

    Part of the standard 9.4% employee contribution to TRS, is .4 to support the ERO program, which is refunded to the member if they do not participate in ERO.

    So at the very least let ERO expire on June 30, 2016.

    Here is more about TRS including ERO.

    There is no comparison anywhere to what has transpired with legislative pension benefit hikes in the Illinois Pension Code.

    It’s unbelievable.

    Legislators and Governors used the legislative pension benefit hikes to underfunded pensions in the Illinois Pension Code for political purposes not for the good of the State of Illinois.

  3. “Since that was Jack Franks’ idea, maybe we can have a state stipend,” Jung suggested.

    He explained how increasing salaries of more than $100,000 a year keeps multiplying when there are annual hikes.



  4. The salaries in the other counties are too high also so that does not fly.

    Freeze salaries.

    Download the salaries from Open the Books and use their widget to view salaries and their hikes over the years, and then calculate what starting pensions will be using current years worked as a point of reference, understand how many vacation days can be accrued and at what salary level it can be cashed out, get a copy of the employee benefit packet that is distributed to employees, and that is just a start.

    The taxpayers need to have a watchdog for every taxing district and state agency that acts as an HR specialist because the monopoly government and monopoly labor unions want to maximize taxes to maximize their benefits and salary.

    The fox is watching the henhouse with no real relief in sight, check out the pensions and the forecasted pensions, and the bonds and forecasted bonds, the TIFs and forecasted TIFs, this state went mad, cane a state be

  5. @ Mark and LTR-

    I’m guessing (hoping, actually) that you are BOTH involved in County government, in some form or fashion. If you are not, PLEASE consider the possibility.

    We can certainly use your informed and intelligent minds to help resolve the issues at hand.

  6. “We have fewer taxpayers.”

    That would be one aspect of the Laffer Curve, which compares Tax Revenue to Tax Rate.

    Taxes raise too high, taxpayers leave.

    There is a point at which raising taxes too high results in less revenue to the taxing district, not more revenue, due to taxpayers leaving.

    The pension sentence added to the Illinois State Constitution did not consider the taxpayers and the Laffer Curve.

    The pension sentence added to the Illinois State Constitution in 1970 had no taxpayer protections.

    The pension sentence added to the Illinois State Constitution in 1970 allowed an UNLIMITED number legislative pension benefit hikes, for an UNLIMITED amount of taxes, creating contractual taxpayer debt that cannot be diminished or impaired, allowing pensions to be underfunded at the time the pension benefit hikes were introduced as a house or senate bill and passed into law.

    It would be very difficult to craft a sentence which had the potential to do more damage to taxpayers and to allow more irresponsible tax hikes by legislators and Governors.

    Think about that when public sector workers say that state has not made it’s full pension payment.

    Substitute taxpayers for state, as the state gets its money from taxpayers.

    Taxpayers have not made their full pension payment.

    So public sector workers don’t explain legislative pension benefit hikes to taxpayers, but do expect taxpayers to fund the legislative pension benefit hikes.

    It’s not nice to obligate taxpayers to debt which was not adequately disclosed PRIOR to the passage of the law creating the debt.

    Many of heard of predatory lending.

    Legislative pension benefit hikes at the time pensions are already underfunded is predatory legislation, and that happened almost every year 1971 – 2011, a forty year, four decade, period.

    Has that story been told by the predatory legislators and predatory lobbyists and predatory public sector workers whom elect their leaders whom hire the lobbyists.

    Freezing salaries is just a start.

    Explaining and then clawing back predatory pension legislation is also required.

    Can the criminals be expected to explain the crime (it was legal crime not illegal crime), just driving home the point of how taxpayers were duped.

    Legal crime.

    Legal corruption.

    That doesn’t make sense.

    Sounds like a Yogi Berra oxymoron.

    Well legislative pension benefit hikes to underfunded pensions doesn’t make taxpayer sense either, although it apparently in some twisted fashion made sense to legislators, public sector lobbyists, and public sector workers.

  7. Speaking of Predatory Lending.

    Senate Bill 65 was signed into law August 28, 2007 as Public Act 95-0521, the High Risk Home Loan Act aimed at Predatory Lenders.

    How about a High Risk Legislation Act aimed at Predatory Legislators.

    An example of High Risk Legislation is legislative pension benefit hikes to underfunded pensions, that has a high risk (it’s virtually guaranteed) of hiking taxpayers unbeknownst to the taxpayer.

    Freezing salaries is just a start.

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