(The Center Square) – Taxpayers could be on the hook for the full monthly salary for three state lawmakers from one district for the month of February alone.
Illinois’ comptroller says the arcane state law must change. The law requires lawmakers to be paid for the full month even if they don’t work the full month.
For the second time in less than a week, voters in former state Rep. Michael Madigan’s House district won’t get to select who should fill a vacancy. Madigan will.
State law says a vacancy in a House seat before the end of a term, it’s filled by officials from the political party the former officeholder is affiliated with. Madigan controls 53 percent of the vote for the party in the district.
Former state Rep. Edward Guerra Kodatt, D-Chicago, was sworn in Sunday after being handpicked by Madigan. He resigned Wednesday after Madigan made the suggestion because of “alleged questionable conduct.” There was no elaboration on what that conduct was.
Comptroller Susana Mendoza said Kodatt is eligible, by state law, to get more than $5,700 for three days’ work. She’s asking Kodatt to decline the payment.
“I don’t know of any other employment where a taxpayer would get a month’s pay for one or two days work,” Mendoza said. “It essentially is like an exit bonus and too often for legislators who are leaving in disgrace.”
A replacement for Kodatt is expected to be chosen by Madigan Thursday. Madigan said he now supports Angelica Guerrero Cuellar. Taxpayers, by law, are obligated to pay Madigan, and his two successors for the entire month of February, despite only working part of the month. The total for all three would be more than $17,100.
Whoever is selected and sworn in before the end of the month, Mendoza is also urging them to decline the month’s pay as well, as they’ll also be eligible for working part of the month.
“What I’m asking them both to do is to do the right thing and stand up for taxpayers and recognize that nobody should get paid a month’s worth of pay for one day’s work and that they just stand up for taxpayers and take an ethical approach to governance,” she said.
Whoever is the new replacement Mendoza said should also sign up as a cosponsor for House Bill 3104 that prorates pay for legislators who resign in the middle of a pay period. If the law was passed, it wouldn’t be implemented until 2022, as lawmakers can’t change their pay in the current term.
“We really need to work hard and try to restore faith in government and when taxpayers see this kind of nonsense going on it’s infuriating,” Mendoza said. “And it’s infuriating for me as comptroller to issue checks to folks who quite frankly haven’t earned it.”
In 2020, Mendoza suggested a change in state law that bases a legislator’s pay on a prorated basis if the lawmaker resigns before the end of a pay period.
The comptroller recalls that former Democratic state Rep. Luis Arroyo, who was charged with bribery; the late former Democratic state Sen. Martin Sandoval, who pleaded guilty to federal bribery and tax charges; and former Republican state Rep. Nick Sauer, charged with online sex crimes, all benefited from the same loophole in state law.