Lawmakers: Court challenges, overrides likely for Quinn budget
By Benjamin Yount
Illinois Statehouse News
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — If a lawsuit doesn’t settle questions about pay raises for state workers in the next week or so, lawmakers in Springfield, Ill., say they’ll have to act in the fall veto session, said Illinois budget experts.
After Gov. Pat Quinn (D) approved a $32.9 billion budget with $366 million in spending cuts, he told nearly 30,000 state employees that lawmakers did not include funding for their salary increases in the 2012 budget. If the state paid for them, Illinois would run out of money by spring, he said.
“We have got to run the government, got to make sure (the money) lasts for an entire fiscal year,” Quinn said. “I had no choice.”
However, Quinn may have no choice but to fund the raises, because the state negotiated them in a contract with state workers during the Rod Blagojevich administration in 2008, said state Rep. Frank Mautino (D-Spring Valley).
“Some of the things (Quinn has) done, I think the courts are gonna say can’t be done because of contractual rights,” said Mautino, a budget expert who helped write the spending plan for the House Democrats.
Most workers in line for a raise are union members, but some are in management positions.
The deal with the union, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, provided for nearly 15 percent in pay increases distributed over the four years of the contract. The agreement was signed months before FBI agents arrested then-Gov. Blagojevich on a host of corruption charges. Blagojevich now is waiting sentencing after he was convicted of corruption.
State Sen. Matt Murphy (R-Palatine) said the state simply cannot handle the expense.
“We can’t afford, on average, 6- to 8-percent raises for state employees when we’re trying to bring our budget back in line, so that tax increases that were sold as temporary can really be temporary,” said Murphy, a budget expert who serves as the Senate GOP point man on fiscal matters.
AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Henry Bayer said state workers have done their part to help with Illinois’ budget woes.
In a statement released Friday, July 1, Bayer said: “At the request of Governor Quinn, AFSCME members agreed to significant steps to help address the state’s budget woes. Under negotiated cost-savings agreements reached at the bargaining table, three times in the last 18 months they deferred scheduled increases, and thousands have taken unpaid furlough days.”
AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall said the union is expected to file a lawsuit against the state in “the next day or two.”
If the union does not file a lawsuit over the pay raises, then Mautino said lawmakers are expected to act in the fall.
The fall veto session also is the earliest that school districts are expected to get answers about the governor’s elimination of $89 million for school buses statewide and $11 million for regional superintendents.
Mautino said the governor cannot eliminate the regional superintendents’ pay without eliminating their duties as well.
“If we had written (legislation) that eliminated them statutorily, or what we require regional superintendents to do in the mandates, that would be a different story,” said Mautino.
Murphy said both the loss of transportation money and the regional superintendents will hit downstate schools harder.
The General Assembly is scheduled to convene for the fall veto session in the last week of October.
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