How Large Is Your Locally Elected Official Living?

admin | 9/2/2009, 7:37 a.m.
by Lesley R. Chinn...
Mayor Daley

by Lesley R. Chinn

In a struggling economy, we already know how some Americans in Illinois are making it where more than 10.4 percent of the population is unemployed according to reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Illinois Department of Employment Security. But how are elected officials who help shape and implement the laws that affect the economy living?

On the federal, state, county and local levels, the Citizen took a look at how elected officials are living in terms of where they live, how much they make, where they work on the side, where they eat and with the current debate on healthcare reformwhat kind of benefits they receive.

Hows Your Senators and Congressmans Healthcare Coverage?

Year after year, not having health insurance coverage and decent salaries has angered taxpayers. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 47 million people are uninsured. The number of uninsured people rose from 44.8 million in 2005 to 47 million in 2006.

Right now, the average pay for Senators and Congressmen is $174,000 annually, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. In addition to the salary, the benefits arent so bad either. Each elected official on the federal level receives retirement and health benefits under the same plans available to other federal employees. According to the Federal Employees Retirement System, members elected since 1984 are covered under this plan. Anyone elected before 1984 is covered under the Civil Service Retirement System. In 1984, Senators and Congressmen were given the option of switching between CSRS or FERS.

Members of Congress are also eligible for health care coverage under the Federal Employees Health Benefits program, administered by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. The program covers 8.3 million Americans who are federal employees, who can choose from 19 different plans, ranging from fee-for-service options to health maintenance organizations.

How Does Illinois Compare?

Gov. Pat Quinn who cut his salary in March and who earns according to AccountabilityIllinois.gov a yearly salary of $126,451, recently took aim at lawmakers pay raises by using his amendatory veto power to propose eliminating yearly pay raises for good. Moreover, a National Conference of State Legislatures report in 2008 found that Illinois lawmakers earn a lot more than legislators in neighboring states with a base pay of $67,836 annually compared to Iowa legislators who make $25,000 a year. In Missouri, lawmakers earn $31,350 and in Wisconsin, the base pay for legislators was $47,413. This year, the base salary for Indiana lawmakers went up to $20,700 from 11,600 annually.

Living Large Literally, How Much Is That House Worth?

Mayor Richard M. Daley previously experienced some controversy surrounding a fire that engulfed a property belonging to two of his neighbors near his summer home in Grand Beach, MI. The fire could have been prompted by an angry response to Chicago Police officers who according to authorities, shot and killed a cougar spotted in the Roscoe Village neighborhood. The house, destroyed in the fire, was worth between $2 and $3 million but Daleys summer home was not damaged. Although the mayors office failed to return calls to discuss how much taxpayers are footing the bill to protect his property out of state, a UPI article mentioned a Chicago Police Officer assigned to protect Daleys summer home in Michigan, apprehended convicted murderer Charles Smith, 48, who escaped from an Indiana State maximum security prison in July. Based on home addresses provided by the Chicago Board of Elections, a Citizen analysis of data taken from Realtor.com found a few aldermen, depending on where they live, have homes worth over $1 million-similar to the value of the homes owned by Daleys nearby neighbors.