Columnist Rich Miller wrote that he noticed Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) doesn’t have a legislative district office, which is unusual, so he asked her why. She sent the following answer, which speaks for itself:
In the four years that I had a District Office I had maybe 5 people cold call – just walk in to find me and most the time I wasn’t there. My assistant would take a message or help them if she could. My office became a place to store a bunch of government brochures paid for by taxpayers (with my name on them) that no one was really interested in and to meet primarily with other government officials to discuss policy. I did have some constituent meetings as well, but not an every day or even every month occasion as often times we handled problems over the phone.
So, I got rid of the office saving in my estimation $80,000 a year for taxpayers. We are allotted $69,000 to run our office – and I always returned some of the money each year, but if you had a full time staffer, the state picked up healthcare and pension costs on top of that allotment, easily approaching 80k.
I have a full time assistant in Springfield who now takes constituent calls for me (admittedly we are not a busy office), she books appointments for me, and handles any other work I need done. Also, each Republican Rep has a communication staffer (shared), access to policy staff on any question we have, and access to legal staff.
I meet with constituents now at my local library – similar to what other state reps with large geographical areas do when they have remote office hours – and I am posting my office hours today or tomorrow – I am just re-checking the dates on that now. I have met with constituents many times already this year with no problems.
Prior to getting rid of my office I had LRB give me a report on our state legislator compensation, including office allotment, compared to certain other states. No surprise, our benefits are very generous. I have attached that report to this email.
I thought during this budget crisis I should do my part. This was an easy cut to make – and if everyone did it I believe it would be over $14 million saved. As far as being available to constituents, I have hosted 5 open town halls this year and 2 more at retirement homes.
FYI – I also filed a bill to reign in the excessive stipend given to committee chairs and minority spokesperson. HB 1857. Also attached is a spreadsheet on how infrequently most of these committees meet – on average in 2016 – 4 times and some of them never. That is an average of over $2500/meeting – and many of them no action was taken. I have written op-eds about this too.
Call if you have questions.
–Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints. Opinions expressed are his own.