I don't know many people who make $64,143 part time.

I don't know many people who make $64,143 part time.


We have exactly 177 such lucky souls in Illinois: the members of the General Assembly. And, because they've been doing such a fine job of standing around and doing nothing for two years in a row, they're looking at getting a big boost to nearly $73,000.


Again, this is part-time work.


Many lawmakers have other occupations to help them stretch their meager state paychecks. Many have careers in banking, insurance and other businesses. It's not as if they commute between the local Burger King and Springfield.


Still, many typically stamp their feet and whine, "This isn't a part-time job! I work a zillion hours a week and my constituents are crawling up my backside all the time and I'm worth every penny!"


Spare us.


Lawmakers know what they're getting into when they run for office. If the time commitment is a concern, they should get a job at a shoe store or another 9-to-5 gig. Then again, punching a clock doesn't feed the ego like languid strolls in $1,000 suits through the shiny halls of the Capitol.


Still, the Compensation Review Board is calling for a boost of nearly $7,000 in lawmakers' base pay. Through the pig-at-a-trough magic of state law, legislators automatically get the increase, unless they vote it down.


Just last year, legislators got a 10 percent hike. Unless you rub elbows with the likes of Jim Owens, you probably look at a 10 percent boost like a teenage boy drools over Jessica Alba. Just a crazy fantasy.


Further, 85 percent of lawmakers are in leadership roles that can add tens of thousands of dollars to their compensation. Under the new hike, some would pull six figures a year.


Only six states pay lawmakers more than Illinois. In two of those states, they work full time.


Do lawmakers spend a lot of time in Springfield? Sure. But most of that is frittered away. They blankly watch the ice in their cocktails melt, waiting for the four legislative leaders and the governor to stop grandstanding in front of TV cameras and instead lead their dutiful sheep.


It's not our fault that their time is squandered by the governor - who, by the way, is looking at a raise of more than $20,000, bringing his salary to more than $190,000. The review board doesn't explain why he deserves such generosity - maybe as a reward for his amazing ability to avoid indictment. So far.


Lawmakers who carp about busy work schedules should look around. Many other folks work tough full-time jobs that pay way less than $73,000.


Think about firefighters. Have you ever had to call 911 to get a lawmaker respond to an emergency? I've never seen a legislator race to a burning building, extinguish an inferno and pull occupants to safety.


The average firefighter salary in Illinois is $42,000.


The cop who patrols a lawmaker's neighborhood makes about $60,000. The lawmaker's kid goes to an elementary school where teachers make $50,000 - but $700 less, if the teacher is trained in special education.


The lawmaker gets a haircut from a barber or stylist who makes about $24,000. And the lawmaker's martini is poured by a bartender who makes $16,000.


And those are full-time salaries. Some of those folks might need to moonlight to make ends meet. Maybe they should try for a part-time job with the state. Those always pay well.


Phil Luciano can be reached at pluciano@pjstar.com, 686-3155 or (800) 225-5757, Ext. 3155.