* The State Journal-Register editorializes on the new AFSCME contract deal…
* Employee health care premiums will increase by at least 1 percent of salary, and AFSCME members took a fiscal year 2013 pay freeze followed by 2 percent increases in the final two years. Step raises will continue. It seems like employees will come out a little bit ahead of where they were, but it’s unclear by how much.
* AFSCME gave ground on retiree health care, a key part of the governor’s plan to cut state expenses. Today, state retirees with 20 years of service pay no premiums for their coverage. But how much did AFSCME give up, and how much will the state save?
Without those details, it’s impossible to declare this a good or bad deal for Illinois taxpayers. But it does look like the best deal the 35,000-member union, with roughly 8,000 living in Sangamon, Menard, Logan and Christian counties, is going to get. […]
If Quinn’s tactic was to send a message that the state’s finances are in shambles and there would be no giveaways this time, it seems to have worked.
He may have “sent” a clear message at the start, but AFSCME members clearly did pretty well, considering the state’s budget problems, with this new contract. Yes, they give up a point for health insurance, but they get 4 percent raises, plus step increases, plus some back pay.
This is classic Quinn. Talk real tough without thinking things through, dig heels firmly in place when the other side pushes back, then give in.
* Finke asks the right question…
Which brings us to the wild card in this whole thing. The net cost of the contract isn’t known yet. The state still has severe financial problems, and it’s the legislature that has to put together a budget that somehow pays for everything.
So what happens if the legislature again essentially doesn’t allocate all of the money needed to pay for the contract? Hopefully, we won’t have to find out the hard way.
* A hint of the future…
A reminder of who is in charge of how much spending eventually will be approved came last month at a low-profile legislative hearing. The governor’s financial team suggested the Democratic chairman of the House Revenue & Finance Committee would have to wait for Quinn’s budget address to get the administration’s best estimate of how much money Illinois would take in during the next budget cycle.
“Well, it may be too late then,” said Rep. John Bradley, the Marion Democrat who chairs the panel.
* Durbin, Quinn fire up Kane County Democrats at annual dinner: In his Sunday speech, it was clear both the pending union deal and Quinn’s push for a hike in the state’s minimum wage will be key talking points for Quinn in the near term. “We just finished a negotiation, 15 months long, at the bargaining table with our government AFSCME employees,” Quinn said. “We came to a tentative agreement that has to be voted on by the members. I’m very hopeful they will vote yes in favor of that agreement and have a contract.”
* Quinn, state workers union reach deal with raises
* Many challenges as Quinn prepares budget: So far this fiscal year Illinois has spent $5 billion to pay down bills from prior years, according to Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka. The current backlog is more than $9 billion, and growing.
* Quinn to deliver budget speech amid ongoing state financial problems: The past two years, the House has gone its own path on developing a spending plan. “I think we will do a House-based budget process just like the last two years because, quite frankly, it worked,” said Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley. “We have paid down quite a few of the bills, and we have made the pension payments. The backlog of bills is not getting deeper. We’ve got things moving in the right direction.”
* Lawmakers predict gloomy budget plans from Quinn: State Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, is among those concerned Quinn will try to close more facilities. “He said he was going to,” Luechtefeld said. “Hopefully he doesn’t.”
* Students squeezed as Illinois college costs rise, aid drops: Over the past 15 years, state aid for Illinois’ public universities has declined 27.6 percent when adjusted for inflation
* Deadbeat Illinois: Schoolchildren lose out with lack of state aid
* Erickson: State needs a plan for unused property