By Jamey Dunn
Gov. Pat Quinn said today that Illinois does not have the money to give public workers raises under the contract their union is currently negotiating with the state.
“We’ve already told the union in the negotiations that there’s no money for raises,” Quinn said.
He said he supports a House resolution that would urge lawmakers not to approve money for raises in the fiscal year 2013 budget. “It’s just common sense. The piggy bank is not there to be giving out raises. We have many bills to pay. We have this pension challenge, and so the notion that we would be giving out raises is not in the cards. And so it’s better for everybody, the executive branch and the legislative branch, to let the government employee union know what the facts are.”
“HJR 45 unnecessarily limits the rights of workers and undermines the state employee collective bargaining process that has worked without disruption in Illinois for 40 years,” Anders Lindall, spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, said in a written statement. “This resolution and continued false statements by the governor and his administration wrongly blame hard-working public servants for the state’s budget problems. Men and women who care for veterans and the disabled, protect children from abuse and keep our communities safe have earned middle-class wages, and Pat Quinn’s actions to terminate their union contract while trying to drive down their standard of living is an attack on the middle class.”
Lindall said the union has offered in negotiations with Quinn to forgo raises next year as part of a “comprehensive settlement.”
“We’re negotiating now,” Quinn said of the new contract. “I really hope we can come to a fair deal for everybody,” Quinn opted last week not to extend the union’s previous contract, which expired in June. However, workers are staying on the job without a contract, and the terms of the expired contract remain in place under state law.
Quinn also defended Squeezy the Pension Python, a character in an online video produced by the governor’s office to inform the public on growing pension costs. The cartoon snake has been mocked by some political commentators. Quinn said the character is a “creative” way to explain the issue to the average Facebook or Twitter user.
“In the world of social media, you’re trying to connect to folks who maybe aren’t all that political. That’s maybe 98 percent of the people. They don’t live and breathe politics every day, and we’ve got to get beyond the sphere of just people on the inside. The issue of the pension reform really affects everybody, the amount of money we spend on our schools and our public safety and helping veterans, all of that is getting squeezed by this pension challenge.”
Lindall said that video inaccurately characterizes the issue. “The governor’s pension website is misleading to the public. Rather than pretending that the pension debt is the cause, when in fact, it’s a symptom of the state’s unfair tax structure — and instead of comparing retirees to snakes — a worthwhile education effort would explain what’s truly needed: a guarantee that politicians won’t skip pension payments going forward; and adequate revenue to maintain vital services while the state pays the pension debt.”
Quinn today declined to comment on a plan under consideration in the House to borrow $4 billion. The measure, House Bill 6240, is sponsored by Chicago Democratic Rep. Esther Golar. “I haven’t seen that bill. I have to look at it,” Quinn said. In the past, he has pushed the idea of borrowing billions to pay off some of the state's overdue bills.