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State Reps. Wheeler, Breen say they won't keep $1,506 leadership stipends

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017 4:35 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017 4:36 p.m. CDT
State Rep. Keith Wheeler

State Rep. Peter Breen, R-Lombard, said he won't keep a stipend of $1,506 for two days of work after being named as an assistant House Republican leader in the waning days of the 99th General Assembly.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin appointed Breen to fill the position following the retirement of state Rep. Ed Sullivan. He also appointed state Rep. Keith Wheeler, R-Oswego, to the post of House Republican conference chairman.

Durkin named Breen and Wheeler to fill the posts on Jan. 9 and 10, the last two days of the 99th General Assembly. The 100th General Assembly began Jan. 11.

The leadership positions carry a monthly stipend of $1,506. But because Breen and Wheeler weren't named to the posts until the final two days of the 99th General Assembly, they were effectively being paid that amount for two days of work.

Both Breen and Wheeler said they have no plans to keep the stipends, which they technically haven't received yet.

Wheeler, who is a freshman lawmaker, said he plans to accept the stipend and donate it back.

"We don't have a choice by law, but we will then be donating it back to the state by some process that I am not fully aware of yet," he said. "That is what our legal people told us is the way it has to be done."

Wheeler said he also was honored to have been named to the leadership post, even temporarily.

"The purpose was really so I'd be eligible to serve as a minority spokesman in the next General Assembly because we are so short-handed," he said.

"We're getting paid six months in arrears, so I wouldn't even see that money until June," Breen said. "It wasn't like I got a check that day."

Breen was elected to the General Assembly in 2014. House rules state that committee spokesman positions may only be held by lawmakers with at least three terms under their belt or lawmakers who have been named to a leadership position.

"There's a special provision of the rules that says you can be a spokesperson if you get a leadership stipend in the prior General Assembly," Breen said. "That's how it happened."

Breen said he didn't even know how much the stipend would be until he read about it in a news story.

"There was never any intention to unduly increase the salary, certainly," he said. "It was two days of work. The way the law reads, as I understand it, is that the gentleman who retired will get a stipend, and then they would have paid me a stipend, as well. So there is no reason to have a double payment of a stipend to two different representatives."

Now that a new General Assembly is beginning, Breen said he doesn't know whether he will be able to keep his leadership post.

"I'm honored to serve in whatever way I'm chosen to serve," he said. "It was a great honor to be selected for this."

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