As Gov. Pat Quinn threatens to slash hundreds of state government jobs to help plug a gaping budget hole, the Better Government Association has learned that Illinois’ treasurer and comptroller have given significant raises to a number of top employees.
The total salary hikes handed out by Republican Treasurer Dan Rutherford and GOP Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka amount to an extra $281,000 a year that taxpayers will have to shoulder, according to documents and interviews.
Specifically, Rutherford gave annual pay hikes ranging from $1,824 to $23,808 to 19 "exempt" employees – meaning they are non-union and not subject to political hiring restrictions – since taking office in January, according to Rutherford’s office.
Topinka, meanwhile, awarded 56 exempt employees a 3 percent raise that was effective in July, according to the comptroller’s office. Topinka also took office in January after a November general election victory.
Not all of those receiving raises are new employees, officials said. Some were holdovers from the last administrations, officials said.
"The increases in salary for the 19 employees are justified because each of those employees accepted a promotion to fill a vacancy, took on a significant increase in job duties, or, in the case of two supervisors, it was an adjustment based on their supervisory duties," Rutherford’s spokeswoman Melissa Hahn said.
"Eighteen of the employees on the list were previously employed here at the treasurer’s office, so raises are clearly not targeting employees who the treasurer brought in when he took office," she added.
The largest single raise in Rutherford’s office topped $23,000 – which went to Sheleda Doss, who was promoted from legislative liaison to legislative associate, and now is paid roughly $65,000 a year, records show.
The largest raise in Topinka’s office went to the employee with one of the largest salaries aside from Topinka: chief of staff Nancy Kimme, whose pay increased from $132,000 to $135,960, records show.
"A 3 percent salary adjustment was provided for 43 exempt employees and 13 merit comp employees," Topinka’s spokesman, Brad Hahn, told the BGA via email. The raises were given, in part, to create more parity with the unionized workforce, he added.
Topinka and Rutherford both are paid roughly $135,700 a year, and their salaries have not changed this year, officials said.
They were not alone among state officeholders in their generosity.
The BGA previously reported that Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, a Democrat, gave 6 percent salary boosts to select employees, with part of the raise coming in June 2010 and part coming in May 2011.
And The Associated Press reported last year that Quinn, also a Democrat, handed out raises averaging 11.4 percent to 35 of his staffers over a 15-month period.
More recently, Quinn indicated that he intends to lay off more than 1,900 rank-and-file union workers in state government because of crushing budgetary troubles. Quinn said the gap between expenses and funding is more than $300 million in this current budget cycle. What’s more, the state has billions in outstanding bills.
Meanwhile, aides to Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said their offices have not given out raises as of late.
Nationally, the unemployment rate has been around 9 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In Illinois, the seasonably adjusted rate – as of July – was 9.5 percent, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security.
The human resources consulting firm Aon Hewitt recently surveyed nearly 1,500 big U.S. companies and found that 2012 raises are expected to be around 2.9 percent for many employees – including executives and non-union hourly workers.
This article was written and reported by Patrick Rehkamp, a Senior Investigator at the Better Government Association. He can be reached at email@example.com or (312) 386-9201.
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