It’s been reported that J.B. Pritzker is going to double the salaries of his senior staff out of his own pocket. My initial reaction is to say that it’s his money, and if the process is transparent and fully reported, who cares? However, after thinking about it, I’m not so sure. There are some questions that I’d like to see answered:
- The staff’s primary job is to give advice to the Governor. There are going to be times when their job will be to look the Governor in the eye and tell him “no”. How likely will they be to do that when they know that half their pay is coming directly from him?
- He seems to be doubling down on the 15% pay increase for agency heads that passed during lame duck (which I voted against). What are we going to do about the mid-level staffers who do so much of the work yet haven’t had a pay raise for years? How much resentment is there going to be there? He’s creating a second floor full of haves and have-nots.
- I think it’s an implicit acknowledgement by Pritzker, not that state employees aren’t paid enough, but that Illinois can’t afford the talent it truly needs to run a $50 billion enterprise like state government. He seems to be taking the easy road: writing a check to cover up a problem he knows we can’t fix. If we weren’t so deep in debt, we’d be able to attract top talent and pay them what they’re really worth. What’s his plan to fix that?
- It sends a signal that he thinks there’s nothing you can’t do if you have enough money. It’s one thing to do this when it’s his own money, what’s his attitude about doing things like this with the taxpayers’ money?
He’s being somewhat tone-deaf, and could be setting himself up to have every rent-seeker in the state come directly to him, thinking that with his wealth, he can write them a check and not miss it. It doesn’t send a good message for when it comes time to do a budget.