By Jayette Bolinski | Illinois Watchdog
SPRINGFIELD – Two former Democratic lawmakers who voted for a “temporary” 67-percent state income tax hike last year were approved by the Illinois Senate for taxpayer-funded jobs on Wednesday.
Senators voted 33-16 to confirm the appointment of former state Rep. Bob Flider as director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Flider, of Mount Zion, earns $133,273 a year in the post. He has no agriculture experience but was appointed by Gov. Pat Quinn in February.
Flider voted for the temporary tax hike during the January 2011 lame-duck legislative session after campaigning against it during the 2010 election, which he lost.
Republican Sen. Dale Righter of Mattoon pointed out that Flider flip-flopped by voting for the tax hike after campaigning against it. But Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, defended Flider, saying he has done a capable job in the Agriculture post.
Righter said Illinoisans increasingly “look at the Capitol building with disgust” over such appointments.
“They say, ‘You know what? That building more and more is filled with people who are taking care of each other,'” he said.
Most of the votes against Flider’s appointment came from Republicans. Voting against it were Republican senators Tim Bivins, Bill Brady, Dan Duffy, Christine Johnson, John O. Jones, Darin LaHood, Chris Lauzen, Dave Luechtefeld, Sam McCann, Kyle McCarter, Matt Murphy, Christine Radogno, Sue Rezin, Righter and Ron Sandack. Sen. William Haine was the only Democrat to vote against the confirmation.
The Senate also confirmed the appointment of former state Rep. Mike Smith of Canton to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, a position that pays about $94,000 a year. Quinn first nominated Smith for the three-year appointment in June 2011.
Smith also voted in favor of the temporary tax hike after losing his bid for re-election.
Smith’s appointment was confirmed in a 33-21 vote Wednesday. Bivins noted that Smith is unqualified to sit on the board under state statute because he lacks the required five years of direct experience in labor and employment relations.
Sen. David Koehler, a Democrat, said the auditor general weighed in on the matter and determined that Smith had enough experience during his 16 years as a state representative to qualify for the post. Smith was a member of and chairman of the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee when he was a representative.
Only Republican senators voted against Smith’s appointment. They were senators Pamela Althoff, Bivins, Larry Bomke, Brady, Duffy, Christine Johnson, Thomas Johnson, Jones, LaHood, Lauzen, Luechtefeld, McCann, McCarter, Murphy, Carole Pankau, Radogno, Rezin, Righter, Sandack, Suzi Schmidt and Dave Syverson.
The House does not vote on executive appointments.