Reduce Government Debt by Putting Lawmakers on Commission

by Joe Plemon on January 24, 2011

As an Illinois resident, I am intrigued by newly-inaugurated Rep. Dwight Kay’s recent proposal (HB0110) to cut state lawmaker’s salaries by 10-percent.  Although Kay’s motives are not clear, I am assuming that he either wants to make a name for himself or punish those responsible for Illinois’ massive debt problems.  Probably some of each.

It’s a 10-percent pay cut for all legislators,” Kay said. “I plan to take one.

I have a better idea: Let’s put all lawmakers on commission, starting with Illinois.

How would this work?

My commission concept is a simple one: reward the lawmakers when they reduce the debt and punish them when they increase it.   The commission would be paid on actual debt reduction, not on sponsored bills or voting record.  Why?  Because if all legislators know their salaries depend on results, they will be forced to work together.

State level

Illinois currently has a total debt of over $120 Billion with the prospect of another $12.8 billion shortfall for the current budget year.

With my commission plan, our current legislators, by approving an additional 10.7% deficit ($12.8 B / $120 B) would get their $67,836 salaries cut to $60,578.   If this trend continues for the next five years, the Illinois lawmakers would see their salaries plummet from $67,836 to $38,523.  However, if they could decrease the debt  by 10% each year for five years, they would bump their salaries to $109,251 annually.  I, for one, would be glad to pay it.

Federal level

Our nation’s debt, according to U. S. National Debt Clock, is currently at $14  Trillion with an annual budget deficit of 1.3 Trillion: a 9.3 percent debt increase.   My commission plan would earn our  federal lawmakers a pay cut of $16,200 from their current $174,000 salaries.   Over a five year period, they would find themselves at $106,800 if the current trend continues.

Tax Hikes don’t count

If you have followed the news recently, you may have noticed that Illinois has increased their state income tax by 66% (from 3% to 5%).   Because this is the quick and easy (politician’s) technique for reducing debt, my commission plan would penalize, not reward, all tax hikes.  How?  I am thinking the lawmakers would pay double whatever tax increases they foist on their constituents.  On the other hand, we should reward legislators who choose to give taxpayers some of their money back in the form of window tax credits (example: energy tax credits for 2011).

One big problem with my Commission Plan

Unfortunately, any changes in salary must be approved by the lawmakers themselves.  In fact, they have scheduled annual increases which go into effect automatically unless they vote otherwise.  This being said, I would think that any normal business man would leap at the chance to work on commission, but, unfortunately, lawmakers are not normal businessmen.  Sooo, in spite of the good sense it makes, or perhaps because of the good sense it makes, I regretfully admit that my commission plan will never be seriously considered.

Makes one wonder about the possibilities of term limitations.  Hmmm.

Readers: What ideas do you have for reducing our state and national debts?


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

krantcents January 24, 2011 at 2:23 pm

I do not know if a commission plan is the way to go, however some performance measure would be appropriate. The problem is setting up the criteria and can we agree what it should be?


olivia January 31, 2011 at 10:29 am

I had been thinking something similar to that. Your’s is a bit more structured and performance based. I thought since regular joes are taking across the board salary decreases so should the guys who are spending us through the roof. It certainly would bring accountability back to government.


joeplemon February 1, 2011 at 9:27 am

Yes, our legislators have lost touch with the regular joe. Wouldn’t it be fun to watch them sweat if my suggestion was to become reality?


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