SPRINGFIELD — Although the chances of resolving the state’s pension problems appear slim, Wednesday’s special session of the Illinois General Assembly could make lawmakers’ wallets and waistlines a little bigger.
As part of Gov. Pat Quinn’s call for a special session to address the massively underfunded state retirement systems, each member of the General Assembly receives a $111 check for food and lodging expenses.
The money is on top of their $67,000 base salary, any additional stipends they receive for serving in leadership roles and an additional check for their mileage.
In all, the cost of bringing the legislature back to the Capitol costs taxpayers about $40,000 per day — an amount that represents a tiny fraction of the state’s funding woes, but has nonetheless become a target of political criticism.
In 2007, for example, Senate Republicans jeeringly called former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s call for a special session on the budget a “teacher per day” folly because the daily cost of bringing members back was roughly the same amount as a school teacher’s salary.
Some lawmakers have made it a practice to donate the special session money to charity.
In 2012, for example, state Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, contributed his share to Pat’s Kids, which assists abused children in Southern Illinois.
“That’s probably what I’ll do again,” Forby said Monday.
State Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, was among a handful of others who also didn’t accept their per diem checks last year. He said he’s not sure whether he’ll do it again this year because he just voted to continue taking furlough days.
“I’m just not sure. I feel like I’ve done my part for the state,” Jacobs said. “I would question why we’re even meeting.”