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Don’t believe everything you read

Friday, Jun 26, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Brad Weisenstein at the Center Square

Putting things on “automatic” just makes life so much easier in Illinois, at least for the state’s leaders.

No need to make politically unpopular decisions, because that state gasoline tax automatically goes up on July 1. Same for lawmakers giving themselves $1,800 raises while being able to claim: “We didn’t vote for those. They were automatic.”

And so it is for Gov. J.B. Pritzker. He doesn’t need any courage to face the state’s biggest government worker union and speak the truth about COVID-19 shutdowns blowing a $6 billion hole in the state’s revenues. On July 1 there will be $261 million in raises going to members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, automatically.

Nearly 1 in 4 Illinoisans is out of a job. Many are still fighting the state’s Rube Goldberg machine of an unemployment system to get the federal money they were promised.

So how fair is it that some of the highest-paid state employees in the nation are getting a raise that must be funded by an economically wounded bunch of taxpayers?

Pritzker dismissed the idea of delaying the state worker raises: “That’s not something that we’re currently having discussions about,” he said in late April.

But other governors, and specifically other Democratic governors, have taken action to preserve scarce cash as they deal with extra costs and crumbling tax bases thanks to the pandemic.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is canceling a 3% pay hike for some state employees and forcing one-day-a-week furloughs on 40,000 others to handle a nearly $9 billion shortfall.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo delayed raises for 80,000 state workers for 90 days, and is now considering employee buyouts. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam pushed back state worker raises, and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf stopped paying 9,000 state workers on April 11.

1) Illinois didn’t previously index its Motor Fuel Tax to inflation and as a result the revenues lost half their value.

2) The budget didn’t include legislator pay raises and the comptroller won’t pay them.

3) For the umpteenth time, the Illinois governor cannot unilaterally delay pay raises for unionized workers.

4) Washington Gov. Inslee’s press release reveals that he did cancel some pay raises for exempt employees, but the vast majority of raises (mostly union workers) will proceed. It’s still worth considering here, but that’s a drop in the bucket.

5) Washington’s furloughs were not unilaterally forced on unionized workers. Gov. Inslee negotiated with the union and 95 percent of members voted to accept the plan. Why would workers do such a thing? Because state employees will actually make more money from the furloughs. Unlike Illinois, Washington has implemented a shared work program. The state shifted costs to its unemployment system. Check this out


6) New York merely delayed the pay raises. The largest union representing workers apparently has contract language allowing for freezes in extraordinary circumstances. The freeze reportedly won’t apply to the second-largest union, which has 56,000 members.

7) Is the Center Square praising a proposal to prematurely dump active state workers into the already over-burdened state pension system? Looks like it.

8) Virginia doesn’t have much of a state employees’ union. The legislature approved raises before the virus hit, but the governor doesn’t have to spend all the money.

9) Pennsylvania’s governor did, indeed lay off 9,000 state workers who were not essential or weren’t telecommuting. They were able to use their paid leave and kept their health insurance.

* Again, there are most certainly budget reductions that should be on the table in Illinois. But after nearly two decades of state operational reductions and those two horrible years without a state budget, there ain’t a whole lot of maneuvering room.

* Related…

* ‘Everything is on the table,’ Cook County board President Toni Preckwinkle warns as 2021 budget gap forecasted to be largest in a decade

* Cook County Finances In The Red Due To COVID-19 Pandemic; Layoffs, Tax Hike Possible


  1. - Grandson of Man - Friday, Jun 26, 20 @ 12:49 pm:

    “So how fair is it that some of the highest-paid state employees in the nation are getting a raise that must be funded by an economically wounded bunch of taxpayers?“

    The right wing billionaire set and their shills just can’t let go of cutting government workers and attacking unions. They can go on and on, but it won’t get anywhere. Corporations got a 40% tax cut because of Republicans and Trump, as well as other tax cuts for the richest. Lots of people understand this.

  2. - Shytown - Friday, Jun 26, 20 @ 12:53 pm:

    There’s nothing I love more than seeing the fine people at Center Square getting schooled

  3. - 47th Ward - Friday, Jun 26, 20 @ 1:04 pm:

    You can draw a straight line from those who believe taxes are confiscatory to those who refuse to wear a mask. It is an ideology that puts the self above the community, and in times like this, it is a very dangerous ideology.

    Center Square is doing the bidding of the wealthy, Ayn Rand-worshipping, “I’ve got mine you’re on your own” crowd. And they think people are dumb enough to buy it because they slather it in resentment.

    Dangerous. Divisive. Dishonest.

  4. - thoughts matter - Friday, Jun 26, 20 @ 1:10 pm:

    I notice they didn’t mention the fact that our health insurance funds are being raided, and therefore, claim payment delays will increase again. Claims were being paid two years late a few years back. Guess Center Square doesn’t think that getting collection calls on claims that the insurance is supposed to pay is a bad thing?
    People always go for sound bites without context. They don’t bring up the years without raises, the amount of vacant positions that need filled - because that dilutes their sound bite.

    I’m all for an early retirement offer, but don’t turn around and throw darts at employees who accept it.

  5. - @misterjayem - Friday, Jun 26, 20 @ 1:12 pm:

    “Well… Yeah, sure… but other than THAT?‼?”

    – MrJM

  6. - CEA - Friday, Jun 26, 20 @ 1:21 pm:

    Is it just me, or does it seem like the “save the billionaires” groups are just phoning it in these days? It’s almost as if in the midst of a pandemic with one in five Illinoisans out of work, it’s become more challenging to manufacture outrage over the wealthy being subjected to the indignity of taxation.

  7. - Kraftwerk - Friday, Jun 26, 20 @ 1:23 pm:

    Now that the state is reopening and on a good path to avoid hospitals and other health care facilities from being overwhelmed, there’s really no need to furlough workers.

  8. - Ares - Friday, Jun 26, 20 @ 1:25 pm:

    Do we want the best and brightest in government, or not? Keep in mind that State (and local and Fed Govt) headcounts have plummeted in recent decades, and somebody will need to take their place. Our best and brightest should be diverted from the financial sector.

  9. - Dan Johnson - Friday, Jun 26, 20 @ 1:28 pm:

    This is a good time to restructure the rate we pay for medical procedures for employees and retirees. We ought to adopt the Medicare rates rather than the hodge-podge of rates we are using now. The more we harmonize what we pay as a country to health care providers, the lower the administrative burden on them and the more rational a health care financial system we become.

  10. - Lucky Pierre - Friday, Jun 26, 20 @ 1:30 pm:

    The Comptroller will have to pay the raises when a retiring legislator sues and wins because the pay raises need to be voted down not just not appropriated

  11. - Cubs in '16 - Friday, Jun 26, 20 @ 1:40 pm:

    ===Pritzker dismissed the idea of delaying the state worker raises===

    The last time state workers represented by AFSCME agreed, in good faith, to defer raises it didn’t work out so well for them. Once bitten, twice shy.

  12. - Moe Berg - Friday, Jun 26, 20 @ 1:43 pm:

    Center Square is less a news service and more a sheltered workshop.

    God knows what kind of trouble these folks would get up to without their well-paid “intellectual” safe space.

  13. - Summer resident - Friday, Jun 26, 20 @ 1:52 pm:

    Will raises go to the best and brightest running the unemployment office . Couldn’t other state workers who were working from home while offices shut have helped out?

  14. - Candy Dogood - Friday, Jun 26, 20 @ 1:57 pm:

    === The state shifted costs to its unemployment system.===

    It is nice to see a governor openly acknowledge that they are doing this, which is why I question the value of putting a public employee of a furlough to our society as a whole since it just shifts expenses and the public loses out of the services.

    Incidentally, with $471 as a maximum weekly benefit and an additional $600 a month in unemployment benefits each week, I would imagine that Council 31 would be open to negotiating a similar agreement with the Pritzker Administration, but I’m not sure that would actually be an advantage to the People of Illinois.

    ===So how fair is it that some of the highest-paid state employees in the nation are getting===

    Rich, I know this is a bit of an ask, but do you think there’s anyway we can get Brad Weisenstein to show his work on this claim instead of just referencing a poorly sourced IPI article that fails to identify methodology (Like who is included in their “Illinois state worker”) and why they’ve decided to include healthcare and the estimated cash value of other benefits in their data?

    Otherwise it just seems like he is lying about a bunch of stuff.

  15. - Not surprised - Friday, Jun 26, 20 @ 2:12 pm:

    This is not the first time Center Square has published some shoddy reporting and I don’t expect it to be the last time.

  16. - pool boy - Friday, Jun 26, 20 @ 2:36 pm:

    Under Blago non union state employees (about 3% of all employees) had to take furlough days which resulted in a 5-10% pay cut. AFSCME negotiated furlough days and only members that wanted to take furlough days did but they received extra paid days off. How is Washington doing this?

  17. - City Zen - Friday, Jun 26, 20 @ 2:52 pm:

    ==Illinois didn’t previously index its Motor Fuel Tax to inflation==

    Up until recently, most states didn’t. Maybe half have some sort of variable rate now.

    Up until recently, the personal exemption wasn’t indexed to inflation either. Started out at $1,000 and is now only $2,275. It should be $7,200. Anyone fixing that?

  18. - City Zen - Friday, Jun 26, 20 @ 2:55 pm:

    ==AFSCME negotiated furlough days and only members that wanted to take furlough days did but they received extra paid days off.==

    I think that’s what California recently negotiated.

  19. - Chatham Resident - Friday, Jun 26, 20 @ 3:00 pm:

    ==Under Blago non union state employees (about 3% of all employees) had to take furlough days which resulted in a 5-10% pay cut. AFSCME negotiated furlough days and only members that wanted to take furlough days did but they received extra paid days off. ==

    Back when Blago made deep cuts to the Secretary of State’s budget in FY09, all employees (union and non-union) were required to take furlough days. Originally we were slated to take 4, but after the impeachment, Gov. Quinn restored some SOS money, and we only needed to take 3 furlough days in the end.

  20. - Contrarian - Friday, Jun 26, 20 @ 3:40 pm:

    Comptroller’s not going to pay them…there is a good one. dime to a dollar that legislators eventually get a raise, maybe not July 1, but they are getting one.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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