SPRINGFIELD (MCT) — A local government that gives an ex-lawmaker a fat paycheck would have to pick up the costs of any automatic increase in his state pension under a proposal the House passed overwhelmingly Thursday.
House Republican leader Tom Cross of Oswego, who sponsored the legislation, said the action is needed to rebuild trust in public officials and demonstrate a commitment to "ending the corrosive policies of the past."
The move came months after the Tribune disclosed a pension windfall for former Democratic state Rep. Robert Molaro of Chicago. Molaro nearly doubled his state-supported pension to more than $120,0000 a year because he worked one month as a well-paid aide to Ald. Ed Burke, chairman of the City Council Finance Committee.
The measure would not affect the Molaro deal. But the state would not be stuck with paying a higher pension tab for any more such deals. It would apply to lawmakers who were in the Legislature before August 1994 and move to a different government job with a bigger paycheck. In 1994, a law was put in place that prevents newer lawmakers from leaving and landing high-paying government jobs that boost their state pensions.
The government that hires an ex-lawmaker would cover any additional pension costs for giving him a higher public paycheck. The former lawmaker also could opt out of the higher pension. The bill moved to the Senate on a 110-0 House vote.
Molaro got the pension boost when he received a $12,000 paycheck for his monthlong job of advising Burke and writing a 19-page white paper on pensions. State law allowed him to annualize the paycheck over 12 months and base his retirement check on a $144,000 salary. It sent his pension soaring to more than $120,000 a year — nearly twice the $64,000 pension he would have gotten without the maneuver.
Sen. Kwame Raoul, the Chicago Democrat who chairs the Senate Pension and Investments Committee, said the measure is appealing because it would help lower at least a portion of the state's burgeoning pension costs. Raoul said he needed to examine the measure further but that it "sounds like it makes sense."
Republican Sen. Matt Murphy of Palatine said he would sponsor the bill.
"It is not proper or acceptable that taxpayers in my district have to pay for a one-month sweetheart deal offered by the city of Chicago," Murphy said.
In other action:
•House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, and Cross won approval of a budget framework aimed at throttling back the spending in agencies and starting to make a dent in the state's massive backlog of old bills.
Dugan said the downturn in the economy has hurt "people who never felt they were going to have to need the services that our state provides."
"If I had to make a choice, I would rather as a legislator say parks and recreation may have to wait a little bit … before we're going to have to take drugs away from seniors," Dugan said.
Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, said the budget outline represented a tough "reality."
It's the hand we've been dealt," he said. "It's a fiscal crisis, and we're trying to get the state back on solid financial standing."
The outline proposes paying down Medicaid bills with $500 million in state funds, collecting $500 million in matching federal funds and using $300 million or more toward reducing the overall backlog of old bills, Cross said.
"Not everybody is happy with the numbers in the resolutions because some people would like the numbers to be higher and some people would like the numbers to be lower, and so this is a compromise, a compromise predicated upon the best information available to the General Assembly," Madigan said.
•The Senate voted in favor of adding Powerball to the types of online lottery tickets that Illinois began offering Sunday.
•A measure to accept private donations to help reduce a DNA testing backlog passed the Senate.