As Illinois seeks bailout amid pandemic, data shows out of control public salaries and pensions

Screengrab NBC Chicago;  Illinois State Senate President Don Harmon (L), Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker

The idea of humble public servants is a misnomer these days, especially so in states run by Democrats.

At the same time, the collaboration between Democrats and public sector unions may be the downfall of many a state.

The state of Illinois, which is all but buried in unfunded pension liabilities, is a poster child for exorbitant salaries, even as the Land of Lincoln faces the very real prospect of becoming the first state in history to have its bonds rated as “junk.”

“Last month, both Moody’s MCO and Standard & Poor’s downgraded Illinois debt to just one notch above junk status,” Forbes reported this week.

At the same time, Forbes auditors discovered 110,000 public employees and retirees earning more than $100,000 last year.

More from the business magazine:

We found tree trimmers in Chicago making $106,663; nurses at state corrections earning up to $277,100; junior college presidents making $491,095; university doctors earning up to $2 million; and 111 small town managers who out-earned every governor of the 50 states ($202,000).

Our interactive mapping tool allows users to quickly review the 110,000 public employees and retirees across Illinois making more than $100,000 (by ZIP code).


The state’s financial woes were exacerbated by the coronavirus shutdown and Illinois State Senate President Don Harmon and his fellow Senate Democrats asked Congress for $41 billion in COVID-19-related stimulus aid — earmarking $10 billion to bail out the cash-strapped state pensions.

President Trump called out Illinois and other Democrat-run states for mismanagement, asking why the rest of the country should bail them out.

The state has an estimated $251 billion pension liability and Forbes reported that a family of four in Illinois “owes more in unfunded pension liabilities ($76,000) than they earn in household income ($63,585).”

The data being compiled from

With a population of 13 million, every man, woman and child in Illinois owes $19,000.

All of which puts a different light on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s sudden interest in using the COVID-19 pandemic to steer vast amounts of money to states.

Back to the salaries, the article noted that in 2019, “nearly 22,000 educators earned a six-figure salary while more than 13,500 retirees received six-figure pensions.”

Chicago had 22,000 of the 110,000 salaries above $100,000:

We calculated that the city paid out $521.2 million in extra pay (overtime, vacation, supplemental, fitness, etc.) above base salaries. Four deputy fire chiefs made between $314,983 and $351,715. Police officers made up to $272,672 and EMT’s up to $270,851. The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) paid line workers up to $300,135, telephone line workers up to $282,123, and escalator mechanics up to $203,855.


At the state level, five Corrections barbers were paid over $100,000. Eight nurses at Veterans, Human Services and Corrections made between $200,000 and $277,100. Eight law enforcement officers at the Tollway Authority earned between $200,000 and $277,000.

Retired Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, a Democrat, was cited for double-dipping the pension system for nearly $232,000.

“Daley made $149,009 per year in state lawmaker pension payouts after a short eight-year career as a state senator plus another $83,784 per year in city pension payouts for his 22 years as the mayor of Chicago,” Forbes reported.

Former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar also double-dipped, with the Republican drawing a total payout of $323,860.

And on and on it goes, while residents in the state remain relatively quiet about the taxpayer-funded largess.


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