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Waste Watch: Legislative Committee Pay

State lawmakers make about $65,000 a year for a job many of you think is part time. But that’s not all you pay them. If a lawmaker is a chairman or a spokesman for a committee, he or she can get an extra $10,000. The problem taxpayers have with that is some committees rarely meet.

It's a common sign at the statehouse. No committee hearing scheduled. But taxpayers still pay. Rep. Eddie Lee Jackson was the chair of the Armed Forces and Military Affairs Committee last year. It met just two times. He received a stipend of about $10,000.

"Two times is not enough,” Jackson, a Democrat, said. “Going forward, I hope, my committee meets several different times.”

Documents show in 2012, a dozen committees met four times or less. Rep. Cynthia Soto got about $10,000 to chair the Mass Transit Committee, which met three times.

"If it met three times, that's what it was scheduled,” Soto, a Democrat, said. “I guess, that is what it was scheduled for. Is it fair? It isn't and I think we need to have more meetings."

In the House, Speaker Michael Madigan decides how many committees there are and who chairs them. Each committee also has a minority spokesman, a Republican. That's a position that also comes with a roughly $10,000 stipend.

We talked with Madigan's spokesman, Steve Brown. We asked him why the state of New York can operate with 37 committees, but Illinois, a smaller state, has to have 45.

"I can only assume that's what legislators in that state decided,” Brown said. “I don't know enough about New York to comment specifically."

Lawmakers are only entitled to one stipend, whether it's for being the chair or minority spokesman for a committee or in a leadership position. The range is about $10,000 to $26,000.

Sen. Sam McCann, a Republican, said there is not much that goes on at the statehouse that is fair to taxpayers. We asked him if he would give the $10,000 back.

"You know, I actually give that money--I'm out in my district quite a bit,” McCann, a Republican, said. “All the time. I think if you follow me on Facebook you will see I am out in the district. I have nine counties. Now I have 11. I put that stipend toward buying fuel and supporting causes around my district and I am proud to do that."

The Illinois Policy Institute, a government think tank, says the committee stipends are a waste.

"When they signed up for this position, it was to go be in committees, it was to be in leadership,” spokesman Matt Paprocki said. “We don't think you should get extra money or revenue from actually fulfilling your job responsibilities."

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 30 states don’t pay lawmakers anything for committee work.

Raw interview with Rep. Eddie Lee Jackson
Raw interview with Rep. Cynthia Soto
Raw interview with Madigan spokesman Steve Brown
Raw interview with Sen. Sam McCann

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