It’s past time to close the door on a taxpayer cash giveaway.
Even on their way out the door, our disgraced legislators find ways to stick it to the taxpayers.
Now maybe their former and soon-to-be-former colleagues in the Illinois House and Senate — let’s call them the unindicted co-conspirators — will do something about it.
Two state officials — Comptroller Susana Mendoza and state Sen. Christina Castro — are making noises about this problem. Something positive just might get done.
Here’s the issue.
Legislators who resign their offices before their terms have expired can game the system to be paid for days they don’t work.
Two Chicago Democrats, former state Rep. Luis Arroyo, who’s been charged in connection with a bribery scheme, and former state Sen. Martin Sandoval, a target of federal investigators, provide recent examples.
Arroyo was, essentially, run out of the Illinois House by Speaker Michael Madigan after he was charged with bribery. Facing no alternative but to go, Arroyo submitted his shotgun resignation effective Nov. 1.
Since legislators are entitled by law to a full month’s pay if they’re on the payroll for even one day in a month — in Arroyo’s case the first day of November — he collected $6,669 more than if he had resigned on Oct. 31.
Sandoval, whose home and offices have been raided by the FBI, pulled the same stunt. The target of intense criticism in connection with pending federal investigation, he submitted his shotgun resignation effective Jan. 1.
Sandoval announced he was leaving Nov. 27, but he didn’t leave — at least officially — until Jan. 1. So he collected full pay for December 2019 and January 2020 totaling $11,577. Half of that sum covers his one day on the state payroll for January.
Describing those sums as “ridiculous” exit pay, Mendoza said it’s time for legislators to remedy the situation.
“Each of these lawmakers left under a cloud but stayed just long enough — the first of the month — to collect an ‘exit bonus’ from state taxpayers for a month’s pay for no work,” she said.
Sen. Castro, D-Elgin, issued a similar complaint and introduced legislation — Senate Bill 2456 — to fix the problem.
“In any other job, a person would not be compensated for an entire month if they only worked one day. This is a glaring loophole that has been exploited far too many times at the taxpayers’ expense,” Castro said.
Actually, private sector employees involuntarily heading out the door frequently receive severance compensation. But there’s a big difference between how private entities spend their money and how public entities spend taxpayer money.
So, obviously, it’s long past time for the legislature to limit legislators’ compensation to only the time they spend in office.
That’s not to say that outgoing legislators won’t find a way to get around that proposed hurdle by sticking around an extra month or two, doing little to nothing while still getting paid.
After all, many of them are master chiselers who never met a guideline they couldn’t finesse.
Even if the Mendoza/Castro bill falls somewhat short of addressing the problem, it does show that public officials react when they feel rising public anger.
In January 2019, Republican state Rep. Mike Murphy of Springfield introduced legislation to address the same issue. A Republican in a super-majority Democratic legislature, Murphy then watched as his bill was buried in a House committee.
Now he’s still being ignored, but his idea is suddenly hot property with the majority party rushing to take credit for it.
That, of course, is the way the political game is played. Perhaps, however, some good will come of the proposed payroll time shift this time.