Slightly fewer workers in agencies under Gov. Bruce Rauner collected $100,000 or more in 2015 than a year earlier, according to figures provided by Comptroller Leslie Munger"s office.
During calendar year 2015, figures from the comptroller"s office show a total of 61,571 employees in Rauner"s executive office and in state agencies under his control.
Of those, 6,842, or just over 11 percent, were reported to have collected six-figure salaries from the state during that year. The year before, figures show that 6,929 employees collected $100,000 or more.
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The amounts include any payments to the employees during the calendar year, whether base pay, overtime or payments for unused vacation time or other compensation due when a worker retires. In recent years, the amounts have also included back wages paid to some unionized employees who were owed raises that had been withheld when the legislature didn"t appropriate money for them.
The drop of 87 people who collected $100,000 or more could be attributed to stricter policies on vacation payouts and overtime pay, said Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly.
"The Rauner administration is enforcing existing state law to ensure that state agencies are limiting payouts of accrued vacation time to two years, which is required by already established personnel rules," Kelly said in a statement. "The failure of past administrations to follow these rules resulted in unnecessary waste of taxpayer money and repeated audit findings."
The administration pointed to personnel rules that stipulate that vacation time must be used no later than two years after the year in which it is earned. Any time not used is supposed to be lost. However, the administration said that in the past, agencies allowed exceptions to those rules.
Kelly also said the administration has made strides to reduce overtime costs at the Department of Corrections. Figures from the comptroller"s office show that in 2014, 1,204 Corrections employees collected $100,000 or more in total pay. A year later, the figure had dropped to 837. Corrections has more than 12,000 employees.
"We have significantly reduced overtime pay at DOC through better management and increased hiring," Kelly said. "Through a reduction in overtime at DOC, taxpayers have saved $10 million."
At the same time, $100,000 payouts in Corrections may have been higher in previous years in part because of the effects of former Gov. Pat Quinn withholding raises that were due to thousands of state workers, including many at Corrections. Quinn withheld the raises because he said the General Assembly didn"t allocate money to pay for them. Courts later ruled that the raises had to be honored.
Corrections spokeswoman Nicole Wilson said many workers began receiving those raises retroactively in 2014. However, she also said the department has been able to "realize a significant reduction in overtime payments," a reduction that could be reflected in the lower $100,000 payouts in 2015.
The Department of Human Services saw a reduction of almost 230 people who collected $100,000 or more. The department is responsible for operating the state"s mental health facilities as well as administering a wide range of human services programs. It also employees a large number of medical professionals who command six-figure salaries.
In 2014, DHS had 1,242 people who topped $100,000 in payouts. A year later, the figure dropped to 1,016.
DHS spokeswoman Marianne Manko attributed the drop to retirements.
"The primary reason is that DHS has been experiencing a high number of employees with 30-plus years of experience who have reached retirement age, and this trend is reflected in those numbers," she said.
Big jumps, too
Some agencies did see an increase in workers topping the $100,000 mark. The Illinois State Police showed a significant jump, going from 1,079 in 2014 to 1,416 in 2015.
Spokesman Master Sgt. Jason Bradley said in an email that "salary adjustments prior to July 1, 2015 were governed by statute as well as collective bargaining agreements with the prior administration." He said a collective bargaining agreement with the Teamsters for master sergeants and "our proposals to all other union employees at ISP reflect a temporary freeze of non-statutory adjustments until June 30, 2019." The agency did not respond to a request for further clarification.
Both the departments of Revenue and Financial and Professional Regulation also saw increases. At DFPR, which had 550 employees listed in 2015, the number of workers collecting $100,000 or more jumped from 93 in 2014 to 140 a year later.
The Department of Revenue saw an increase of 53 employees topping that mark, going from 310 in 2014 to 363 in 2015. According to comptroller"s office numbers, the department had just over 2,300 employees in 2015.
Terry Horstman, a spokesman for the two departments, said the increases are attributable to pay raises taking effect.
"The increases at IDFPR can almost entirely be attributed to unionized employees receiving their COLAs (cost-of-living adjustments) and step increases," he said.
The department had 87 unionized employees making between $100,000 and $105,000 in 2015, he said, meaning they only recently reached six figures.
At Revenue, 87 unionized auditors received mid-year raises in 2014 that were annualized in 2015, he said. Many of those auditors were making in the upper-$90,000 range by the end of 2014, and once the salaries took effect for a full year, they topped the $100,000 mark.
The Department of Natural Resources also saw an increase of $100,000 payouts from 157 in 2014 to 189 in 2015. Department spokesman Chris Young said the agency "has an older workforce with many long-serving employees" and saw an uptick in retirements during that period.
Doug Finke reports from the state Capitol for the State Journal-Register in Springfield