Salzberg calls state lawmakers' high salaries 'a shame'
A recent report has revealed that Illinois lawmakers are the fifth highest-paid lawmakers in the nation, with an annual base salary of $68,000, far more than neighboring states like Iowa.
Benjamin Salzberg, Republican candidate for the District 29 state Senate seat, finds this disgraceful, especially in light of the state’s financial problems.
“It’s a shame that the taxpayers are paying their elected officials at a really high rate, and those officials are not doing their jobs,” Salzberg said. “Not only that, they are hurting all the people in Illinois because they are not solving the problems we have.
Lawmakers failed to pass a balanced budget for fiscal year 2016 and instead opted to pass a stopgap budget in late June. Despite the crisis facing Illinois, the average total cost to taxpayers for each lawmaker is approximately $100,000, including state-provided health care, dental, pension and various reimbursements.
As lawmakers are getting paid, many residents are finding themselves unemployed. Many, such as the highly valued prime-working-age adults and millennials, are choosing to leave the state.
“Every five minutes, a person from Illinois leaves to go to another state,” Salzberg said. “Every five minutes. That is unacceptable. Approximately 290,000 young people in the last decade have left Illinois. That is a problem. When is enough enough? We need to get people back here in Illinois.”
Salzberg is also concerned about businesses leaving the state because of the unfriendly policies that have scared away companies such as John Deere. This has a ripple effect on the economy.
“I know that recently, John Deere in Moline is going to have to lay off 120 people,” Salzberg said. “Why is that? It’s because of the property taxes -- the high property taxes the farmers have to pay. They can’t afford the equipment. They can’t afford to buy. So what are we going to do to make it more business-friendly so that people can live, have families and support their children?”
The candidate said the state makes it difficult for entrepreneurs who strive to make an impact in their communities. A recent report confirms Salzberg’s sentiments.
“If you want to start a business right now in Illinois, it costs $500 just to get an LLC and then $250 more (in other expenses)," Salzberg said. "So it’s about $750 to get an LLC. An entrepreneur who doesn’t have much money who wants to make a difference in the world and wants to make an impact on society … how are these people supposed to do that in Illinois?”
Salzberg said the state needs to be more supportive of businesses and families, or else Illinois will find itself in an even more difficult situation. The candidate, with his background as a Six Sigma Lean specialist, offers a methodology to fix the state’s problems: Ask why.
“I problem-solve for a living,” Salzberg said. “I go in, and I diagnose. Most people in the House and the Senate look at the surface issues surrounding what the root cause is. In order to find the root cause, you need to determine why it is happening. You have to ask the question of why. Statistically, there is a formula that if you ask why five times, you will get to the root cause.”
Salzberg said most lawmakers only ask "why" once and therefore only address the surface problems, discovering the effects, but not the causes of the actual problems.
Salzberg said Illinois can solve its problems by asking "why" five times. Salzberg uses an example of a case study in Washington, D.C., for the Washington Monument. It was falling apart due to a chemical in bird droppings. The solution was getting rid of the birds, but why were there birds in the first place? Keep asking why, Salzberg said.
“The reason why the birds were there was because there were gnats on the monument,” Salzberg said. “Why were there gnats on the monument? Because they were attracted by the lights shining on the monument.”
The gnats were the root cause of the problem. It was discovered that if the lights were turned on later at night and not at dusk, then gnats were no long drawn to the monument, which, in turn, no longer attracted the birds.
If you get to the root cause of Illinois and ask the question "why," then you will get the solution, Salzberg said.
And who does Salzberg believe is one of the root causes of Illinois’ financial problems? Frank Mautino, the state's auditor general, who is currently being investigated for campaign spending discrepancies.
“The auditor general is very critical in Illinois; and the reason why is because he or she tells us if the money is being misappropriated, or if the money is properly going toward where it is supposed to go in different programs,” Salzberg said. “But if the auditor isn’t transparent and doesn’t tell us what is going on, then we will be unable to fix the problem because we wouldn’t know where the problem lies.”
Salzberg said Mautino, appointed by House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Dist. 22) and Senate President John Cullerton (D-Dist. 6), is a very powerful person with a large impact on Illinois -- a position that demands trust.
“He really defines what is going on because other auditors work underneath him,” Salzberg said. “He is supposed to be transparent, but if people can’t rely on him…then it’s very hard for people in Illinois to know exactly what is happening and why we are losing money.”
Salzberg said Madigan and Cullerton won’t be asking "why" because they want to maintain their position in Springfield. Salzberg said Madigan and his supporters, such as State Sen. Julie Morrison (D-Dist. 29), vote to appoint people like Mautino for their own interests and not for the interests of Illinois. They vote to support their own agendas.
“We should all be working together to improve our state and to get people back,” Salzberg said. “Our neighbors love us; Indiana loves us; Wisconsin loves us because all our companies are leaving Illinois right now. Who is going to be left with the bag? Eventually, there will be one person left paying for everything. So what is going to happen?”
As people leave, so do the jobs. The recent job numbers showed a loss of jobs and a shrinking employment force.
“There were 2,200 jobs in June that were lost in Illinois,” Salzberg said. “We’re not creating new jobs here. I believe that we have less jobs now than when the recession came. This is a problem. We need to create jobs. We need to make it so that people can come back, and support their families and homes.”
Salzberg said the solution is to create growth and opportunity. Illinois has to create a supportive structure for families and businesses, Salzberg said.
“We can put good policies in; good measures in,” Salzberg said. “We can be supportive to entrepreneurs who want to support our economy, our state and the lives of other people. We need to make growth…we need to create a better structure that gives some type of leeway to companies, and be friendlier to growth and opportunity. That’s what we need: growth and opportunity."