Gov. Pat Quinn intends to cut 75 unnecessary or redundant boards and commissions, a decision that follows several Better Government Association investigations into Illinois’ proliferation of costly and underutilized state panels. (UPDATE: Governor signs Executive Order).
During his annual budget address, Quinn said he would issue an Executive Order this week that will abolish up to 75 panels. Depending on which boards and commissions go, Quinn’s decision could save taxpayers millions of dollars, according to BGA estimates.
“These boards were either dormant, entirely redundant, or their work had been completed,” he said.
The BGA has called on the governor to begin streamlining the state’s panels and to make good on his 2009 pledge to evaluate and weed out unnecessary state boards and commissions with an eye toward saving money.
Earlier this year, the governor’s spokeswoman told the BGA that Gov. Quinn would announce his plans during the budget address.
Illinois is home to more than 300 state boards and commissions that are supported by millions of taxpayer money but operate with little or no public scrutiny.
In some instances, taxpayers are covering the salaries and benefits of paid board and commission members who oversee such diverse areas as elections, utilities regulation, liquor control, and property tax appeals.
The BGA reported earlier this year that almost 40 state boards pay their members a total of more than $8 million a year in salaries and benefits. The rest hand out nearly a million a year in per diem fees and expense reimbursements.
Salaries range widely from $117,043 for the full-time Pollution Control Board, which holds hearings and reviews environmental cases, to $15,000 for the part-time Employment Security Board of Review, which reviews decisions about unemployment insurance claims.
Another employment insurance panel, the 12- member Employment Security Advisory Board, makes policy recommendations and reimburses expenses.
At the part-time Human Rights Commission, 12 members are paid $46,960 a year, plus health and pension benefits, for working an average of 13 hours a month, according to a 2011 BGA investigation.
These lucrative public service jobs, held at the discretion of the governor with Illinois Senate approval, have a history of going to politically connected insiders or campaign supporters.
When Quinn took office in 2009, he pledged to end the long-held practice of naming political friends to those lucrative paid posts and to dump the most unnecessary boards and commissions.
However, the BGA determined that the number of boards and commissions had actually gone up from 333 in 2010 to 346.
“The BGA learned earlier this year that the number of boards and commissions actually grew in the last few years,” said Andy Shaw, president and CEO of the BGA. ” Now, we are pleased to see Quinn take action in reducing the amount of panels, which should reduce costs and improve efficiency. It took too long but better late than never.”