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Republican governor ridicules Illinois’ treatment of state employee unions

Wednesday, Nov 28, 2012

* Iowa’s Republican governor made fun of Gov. Pat Quinn’s dealings with AFSCME

Gov. Terry Branstad said Monday he would negotiate in good faith with the state’s roughly 20,000 workers, although he wouldn’t say whether their pay demands are in his budget.

Asked about Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s move last week to terminate the contract of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees with the state, Branstad took a potshot at the neighboring state, one of his favorite targets.

“Illinois is a basket case. Illinois has the most debt per capita of any state. Illinois has the biggest unfunded pension system. They have huge, huge problems,” he said. “And we don’t operate the way they do in Illinois. We negotiate in good faith.”

Ouch.

* Meanwhile

With no dissenting votes, the Illinois House Revenue Committee Tuesday approved a resolution declaring the state has no money available to give pay raises to unionized state employees this budget year.

The measure, House Joint Resolution 45, goes to the full House. It must also be approved by the Senate.

The resolution says the state “shall appropriate no amount for new wage increases associated with any and all collectively bargained contracts throughout state government for the fiscal year 2013 budget …” The 2013 fiscal year ends June 30. […]

“It simply expresses the opinion of the House concerning the amount of money that should be spent on pending collective bargaining contracts,” said House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, principal sponsor of the resolution.

* More

The resolution does not legally bind Quinn from striking a deal to give workers a pay raise, but if passed, it would send a message that lawmakers are unlikely to include the money for a raise in next fiscal year’s budget. “It’s very straightforward. It simply expresses the opinion of the House concerning the amount of money that should be spent pending [a] collective bargaining contract,” said House Speaker Michael Madigan, who sponsors the amendment. The measure also states that it would be “policy of the state of Illinois” that the size of the state’s workforce will not be part of collective bargaining, meaning that promises to skip or lessen layoffs could not be used as bargaining chip in negotiations. Again, this provision would not legally bind Quinn or governors following him.

The legislature effectively blocked pay increases for AFSCME members last year by not including the money for them in the budget. Gov. Quinn canceled the raises, saying that his hands were tied by the budget approved by lawmakers. The issue is still playing out in court. Although resolutions are not legally binding, the House has also stuck to recent budget resolutions that capped general spending.

Lawmakers in favor of the resolution say that because the legislature approves the budget, the General Assembly should have some say in the spending associated with union contracts. “We’ve put our input in, which is we don’t have additional money. So if you make promises regarding additional money, the state does not have the ability to keep those promises,” said Rep. John Bradley, a Marion Democrat.

But union officials say that the legislature is undermining the collective bargaining process. “Our union has negotiated contracts with Democratic governors, with Republican governors, in good fiscal times and in bad fiscal times. And the current collective bargaining process, uninterrupted, has allowed for contracts that are fair both to the workforce and to taxpayers,” said Joanna Webb-Gauvin, legislative director for AFSCME Council 31.

* And speaking of debt, there was no vote yesterday on a proposal to borrow $4 billion to pay off overdue bills to state vendors, suggesting there aren’t enough Democratic votes for it as of yet. And the Republicans are still not going along

Legislative Democrats and Republicans bickered again Tuesday over a proposal to borrow billions of dollars to pay those owed money by the state.

Rep. Esther Golar, D-Chicago, proposed House Bill 6240, which would borrow $4 billion to pay schools, universities, healthcare providers, local governments and state vendors who have been owed money for more than 30 days.

“We are in a crisis in this state because of unpaid bills,” Golar told the House Executive Committee, which did not act on the legislation because of possible technical modifications to it. […]

[Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka] testified against the legislation, saying the state’s economy is improving and that she is making some progress at paying off the overdue bills.

* More

Republican Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka said Tuesday the worst thing the state could do is take on more debt.

Topinka said her office currently has nearly 170,000 outstanding bills totaling $7.1 billion. But she said as the economy improves, the state is making progress paying down the backlog.

* Other stuff…

* Gambling expansion in January?: Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said he expected to see a new version of gambling expansion emerge in January. Earlier this year, Quinn vetoed a measure that featured five new casinos, including one for Chicago. Instead of pushing to override Quinn’s veto, Cullerton indicated that negotiating a new bill with the governor and other parties might be the way to go. It will take fewer votes to pass a bill in January than it does now.

* Hammond mayor wants 2 inland casinos: McDermott tells The Times of Munster that two land-based casinos would help Indiana better compete against proposed new casinos in Illinois.

* VIDEO: Khan Academy on Illinois pensions

- Posted by Rich Miller        


34 Comments
  1. - Cassiopeia - Wednesday, Nov 28, 12 @ 11:01 am:

    The comments by the Iowa Governor are on target. We sometimes have become so used to the pitiful state of Illinois government finances and lack of responsible leadership that we just shrug and move on when Governor Goofy does things like cancel the union contract.

    Quinn has not reduced government expenditures like he should have when he first came into office and has had two clueless budget directors in a row. They talk about the dire finances yet the fiscal pain they have absorbed are nothing like the level they should be. Sure there have been some closings and reductions, but not a comprehensive belt-tightening across all agencies and all programs. Millions are being thrown out the door to consultants daily as if the state was flush with cash. The list goes on and on.


  2. - geronimo - Wednesday, Nov 28, 12 @ 11:07 am:

    Say what you will about Iowa, but they’ve got a state that works. When we visit relatives it’s amazing to see new home construction, a healthy real estate market, thriving businesses. They also have a progressive state tax structure. It’s apparent that our antiquated flat tax system bears some responsibility in our insufficient funds.


  3. - Soxfan - Wednesday, Nov 28, 12 @ 11:09 am:

    C: Until I hear that my union (yes, I’m a AFSCME member) is willing to at least commit to some shared sacrifice, then what’s the point of negotiating? It appears AFSCME leadership is willing to let the courts decide. That’s wrong — not only my own best interests (I’d like to enjoy a pension someday), but also for the welfare of the state as a whole.


  4. - Soxfan - Wednesday, Nov 28, 12 @ 11:11 am:

    G: Don’t forget, though, that we Illinoisans subsidize the “thriving” state of Iowa (ie, they receive more federal dollars than they put in).


  5. - Small Town Liberal - Wednesday, Nov 28, 12 @ 11:14 am:

    Must be easy when you get back so many more federal dollars than you generate:

    http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/08/americas-fiscal-union

    I’ll stay here in Illinois where we help pay for the rest of the country, and most importantly, it isn’t Iowa.

    As to negotiating in good faith, the argument from AFSCME started off with huge decreases in wages to now whether or not they get raises. Sounds like either someone is lying, or there has been significant negotiating.


  6. - Wensicia - Wednesday, Nov 28, 12 @ 11:15 am:

    A Republican governor criticizing Quinn for behaving like a Republican?


  7. - Cincinnatus - Wednesday, Nov 28, 12 @ 11:21 am:

    Breaking a contract is not Republican.


  8. - frustrated GOP - Wednesday, Nov 28, 12 @ 11:24 am:

    7.1 billion in back bills. So we are improving on the back bills. up 900 mill. Why is borrowing a t low rates bad for paying off some of the bills, if those bills are in State and could free up more money in the State to be taxed? Is there detail, or it’s just bad. I agree we need to stem our borrowing, but we need a plan to start paying these bills sooner.


  9. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Nov 28, 12 @ 11:29 am:

    Quinn can be an easy target, but it’s not like Branstad is Walter Reuther.

    Back in the early 90s, he vetoed a bill that would have funded union pay raises awarded through arbitration. AFSCME sued and won in court.

    AFSCME currently has a beef with Branstad for attempting to alter their health plans without going through collective bargaining.

    Also, I recall back in the late 90s when Branstad allowed Iowa state prisoners to cross a United Steelworkers picket line to work at the Sivyer Steel Plant in Bettendorf.

    So Mother Jones, he ain’t.

    Still, he did beat Fred “Gopher” Grandy in a GOP primary once. And every Dem he ever ran against, too.


  10. - Newsclown - Wednesday, Nov 28, 12 @ 11:29 am:

    The Khan videos are a better attempt than the ridiculous “Squeezy” video, but none of them mention the fact that some of the crisis is an artificial construct, in that, at no point, will every state employee quit on the same day and all demand their pension checks simultaneously. This cannot happen, yet, the “pitch” of the so-called ramp is predicated on an artificially-chosen percentage of “fully-funded”. And it is the steepness of that ramp now, and the unreasonable timetable for getting up past 70 percent funded, that is killing the state budget. This is very similar to the poison pill that was fed into the US Post Office’s budgeting plans, where they’re now obligated to be fully funded for employees not yet BORN, never mind hired.

    We need to change the ramp, which needs a con-con.


  11. - S. Dolopoulos - Wednesday, Nov 28, 12 @ 11:33 am:

    The borrowing plan sounded like a good idea at first. Another commenter recently pointed out, however, that borrowing this money significantly increases the state’s costs and makes it more expensive to pay Illinois’ bills, not less. Turns out they were correct.

    The tax increase was supposed to help pay down our bill backlog. That clearly does not appear to be occurring.


  12. - Soxfan - Wednesday, Nov 28, 12 @ 11:33 am:

    Frustrated GOP is right. On one hand, both parties agree that small businesses are a big driver of the economy, yet we’re not willing to support them?

    When did paying your bills become a political football? This argument reminds me of the criticism of Obama’s stimulus plan; everyone thought is was a good idea BEFORE he was elected.


  13. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Nov 28, 12 @ 11:37 am:

    ===The tax increase was supposed to help pay down our bill backlog. That clearly does not appear to be occurring. ===

    The next person who posts this sort of comment will be deleted and banned.

    The tax hike has cash set aside within it to pay borrowing costs for a bond to pay off the old debt.

    I’m so sick of countering this red herring.

    Either you’re too ignorant to be posting here or are trying to willfully mislead others. Either way, you’re gonna be gone. End of story.


  14. - sgtstu - Wednesday, Nov 28, 12 @ 11:37 am:

    “Rep. Esther Golar, D-Chicago, proposed House Bill 6240, which would borrow $4 billion to pay schools, universities, healthcare providers, local governments and state vendors who have been owed money for more than 30 days.

    “We are in a crisis in this state because of unpaid bills,” Golar told the House Executive Committee, which did not act on the legislation because of possible technical modifications to it.Pay the big bill of the pension like you are suppose to and one day all of Illinois bills will be paid on time. Try that one for a change !!


  15. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Nov 28, 12 @ 11:39 am:

    –Breaking a contract is not Republican.–

    Unless it’s the social contract.


  16. - PublicServant - Wednesday, Nov 28, 12 @ 11:41 am:

    === Breaking a contract is not Republican. ===

    Pensions are an enforceable contract that shall not be diminished, or impaired.

    Glad to have you on board, Cincy! And welcome to the rest of you contract supporters out there.


  17. - Jimbo - Wednesday, Nov 28, 12 @ 11:45 am:

    Word, boom headshot


  18. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Nov 28, 12 @ 11:48 am:

    Leave it to an anti-union jerk like Iowa’s Gov. Terry Brandstand to worry abought the plight of labor in Illinois. If Brandstad was pro-union, Iowa wouldn’t be a right-to-work state! When you govern a state with the population of DuPage County it’s a lot easier than governing a huge diverse state like Illinois.


  19. - frustrated GOP - Wednesday, Nov 28, 12 @ 12:02 pm:

    I would like to see an real economic case for going through the bills and paying on a basis of biggest tax return to the State. Sorry, but maybe local govt that has surplus has to wait, and non-profits, borrow and pay where payment will potentially free capital or operating money that allows hiring and expansion. Give to locals govt.that don’t have cash on hand to make it through the year, so they don’t reduce staff.
    Maybe we are doing that, but it might just speed up the economy and the payment of the other bills. There is no new money, so we need to strategically use what we got.
    ok, of the soapbox and back to work.


  20. - Pot calling kettle - Wednesday, Nov 28, 12 @ 12:03 pm:

    I’m sure Iowa’s budget is helped by the fact that the top income tax bracket paid 8.98% (The income tax ranges from 0.36% up to 8.98%m so definitely not a flat tax state. AND their tax law adjusts with inflation.)


  21. - Crime Fighter - Wednesday, Nov 28, 12 @ 12:11 pm:

    I think it misses the point. Quinn mistreats ALL of his employees who are tasked with public service. He only supports his political appointees who make mischief against lawful and functioning government.
    His administration has attacked public service across the board. He has done so through retaliation and other wrongdoing against workers. His rejection of rules, laws, and ethical standards in the workplace makes him at least as Republican as any GOP governor.


  22. - Lay Person - Wednesday, Nov 28, 12 @ 12:30 pm:

    Don’t borrow to pay past due bills. Restructure debt and reduce your administrative costs in all programs. Centralize Divisions-Reduce some state employees at Field Offices.Let us review producti-vity and overall compentencies for all positions considered management. Unions tell your employees to produce and not just want all the time. They will loose in the end!!!


  23. - Cincinnatus - Wednesday, Nov 28, 12 @ 12:36 pm:

    - wordslinger - Wednesday, Nov 28, 12 @ 11:39 am:

    –Breaking a contract is not Republican.–

    “Unless it’s the social contract.”

    As only defined by you, right?


  24. - AFSCME Steward - Wednesday, Nov 28, 12 @ 12:49 pm:

    SoxFan

    The union is in court about violations of the previous contract, including concessions from the union that saved the state millions. In case you don’t know, we reopened an existing contract and deferred scheduled wage increases, agreed to furloughs and cost cuts in health insurance. The governor failed to honor his agreements as part of those concessions. That is why we are in court.

    As far as the current negotiations go, pay increases are not what is holding things up. Because there was not sufficient funding appropriated to pay for employee healthcare, the state is attempting to dramatically increase employee share (in the hundreds of percent)of the healthcare cost. The out of pocket expense would be an increase of up to $1000 per month for employees. While I am not a negotiator, I am in the loop as to what is happening. The union has already accepted a wage freeze for the first year of the contract. The state wants a 2 tier wage for new hires & a freeze for 4 years. There has been progess in the wage issues, but the healthcare costs remain the major obstacle.

    “Until I hear that my union (yes, I’m a AFSCME member) is willing to at least commit to some shared sacrifice, then what’s the point of negotiating? It appears AFSCME leadership is willing to let the courts decide. That’s wrong — not only my own best interests (I’d like to enjoy a pension someday), but also for the welfare of the state as a whole.”


  25. - Anon - Wednesday, Nov 28, 12 @ 12:49 pm:

    I’m pretty sure Hawaii has the highest debt per capita, but I take his point.


  26. - rusty618 - Wednesday, Nov 28, 12 @ 12:51 pm:

    I have several friends who work for the Iowa state government in a similar position as mine and they actually enjoy it. Quinn could take a few lessons from Gov Branstad!
    It’s interesting that the legislators are anxious to make room in the budget for their own raises!


  27. - S. Dolopoulos - Wednesday, Nov 28, 12 @ 2:01 pm:

    dang it! Rich, please delete that post - I was editing it and hit “enter” by mistake.

    I do want to try and understand, sincerely.


  28. - steve schnorf - Wednesday, Nov 28, 12 @ 2:39 pm:

    C, I very much agree with you. Without the sanctity of contracts rights, I don’t see how their is sanctity of property rights. Breaking contracts is not Republican. Neither, btw, is failing to pay bills that are owed.

    In terminating the AFSCME contract I believe Gov. Quinn acted consistent with the law. As to the canceling of raises in past years, courts will decide whether that was lawful, and I expect the Governor will act consistentl with what the courts tell him the law is.


  29. - soccermom - Wednesday, Nov 28, 12 @ 2:56 pm:

    Newsclown, I don’t think a new ramp would require a con-con, as the ramp is not part of the Constitution. And while it’s true that the 80% funding level is arbitrary, funding the pension systems around that level does give more oomph to the systems’ investments. (If you make 6% on a million, you wind up with more than if you make 6% on $500k, and then you compound on that larger amount.) But yeah, as we’re doing all of this stuff, could we please fix the stupid ramp?


  30. - VanillaMan - Wednesday, Nov 28, 12 @ 3:01 pm:

    We elected him, he didn’t. Quinn is a Democrat, he isn’t. So we reserve the right to ridicule this pathetic excuse for a governor.

    Uh, what part of what Branstad said qualifies as ridicule anyway?


  31. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Nov 28, 12 @ 3:26 pm:

    –So we reserve the right to ridicule this pathetic excuse for a governor.–

    I’d hardly classify Branstad as a “pathetic excuse for a governor.” I can’t imagine why you do.

    He’s been very popular since the 1980s. He, along with Grassley, came out of the Iowa Main Street/Farmer GOP, but were able to come to accommodation with the Pat Robertson evangelicals who took over the state party in 1988.

    The great challenge facing Iowa and rural America is depopulation and an aging population. Farming over the decades has become capital intensive, rather than labor intensive. How do you adjust the infrastructure and resources?

    Iowa has been dealing with it, to a greater extent, longer than most and successfully, regardless of partisan politics.


  32. - Rob - Wednesday, Nov 28, 12 @ 5:05 pm:

    Worslinger I believe VanillaMan’s referally to a “pathetic excuse for a governor” was our very own Pat Quinn.


  33. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Nov 28, 12 @ 8:26 pm:

    Rob, I think you and VMan need to work on your language skills a little bit.

    It’s very hard to tell who either one of you are “referally” to.


  34. - Anonymous - Thursday, Nov 29, 12 @ 8:52 am:

    === The tax hike has cash set aside within it to pay borrowing costs for a bond to pay off the old debt. ===

    Hi Rich! I think you saw my longer post that went up by accident yesterday. Thanks for deleting it. I didn’t edit and re-post it, but did see this last night: “Where did Ill. Tax Hike Money Go?” http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/local/illinois&id=8901532

    I haven’t been able to find anything online regarding what happens to the money from the tax hike that was supposed to pay the bond debt. Do you or anyone else know what is supposed to happen to that money?

    Is it supposed to still go to paying down the backlog in lieu of bond payments? Used for general revenue funding? Was anything even specified or planned in the event the bond plan failed?


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