Illinois lawmakers have taken some initial steps to protect taxpayers from what local units of government can spend on weekend trips to Chicago for training conferences, but a couple of lawmakers said that getting enough support to advance further legislation won't be easy.
State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, got legislation signed into law that bans local officials in Illinois from spending public money on entertainment but says bills to keep them from spending on travel, meals, and lodging expenses falling on taxpayers have not been successful because the conventions that they go to are run by lobbyists close to many lawmakers in Springfield. Training conferences don't have to be lavish affairs at luxury hotels in Chicago.
“Why doesn’t somebody order Dunkin Donuts and have it at an existing government facility at no cost to the taxpayers?” he said. “It’s a disgrace. People contact me every day in my district or on social media and talk about how they’re moving out of the state because of high taxes. We have to lead by example.”
He was also able to require taxing bodies to disclose budgets for convention spending.
State Rep. Allen Skillicorn, R-East Dundee, said local taxpayers can’t attend every meeting because there are so many units of government in the state – nearly 7,000.
“Valet parking, fancy dinners, conferences with overnight hotel fares is unfair to the people,” he said.
Documents obtained from park districts around the state show they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in public money on a January conference in Chicago.
Bills from both that would rein in convention spending have been referred back to the House Rules Committee.