By Mark Fitton
Illinois News Network
SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration and the state’s largest public-employee union have cut one another a bit of slack.
Thursday afternoon, the administration and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees issued a joint statement announcing they’d extended contract talks for a month with both sides retaining all rights.
The state’s contract with AFSCME Council 31, which represents about 38,000 state employees, expires June 30.
The statement from Jason Barclay, the governor’s general counsel, and AFSCME Deputy Director Mike Newman said:
“AFSCME Council 31 and the governor’s office (have) reached an agreement that precludes the possibility of a strike or lockout for a one-month period after the state’s collective bargaining agreement with AFSCME Council 31 expires on June 30.
“This agreement preserves all legal and contractual rights of the parties as of the contract expiration date.
“More importantly, it allows both sides to continue to negotiate during the month of July without the threat of disruption to important public services.”
Regardless of the talks between the administration and the union, there still might be some interruptions of state services sometime after June 30.
The first day of July is also the start of the fiscal year and the Republican governor and legislative Democrats are locked in their own battles over the budget.
Democrats have sent the governor a $36 billion spending plan that they admit is $3 billion shy of revenue estimates. Republicans say it’s closer to $4 billion short.
While Democrats say they’ll work with the governor to raise more revenue, Rauner has said he won’t sign an unbalanced budget.
Further, Rauner has long said he will not support any new revenue until he gets what he calls structural reform in state government.
On Wednesday, the governor did sign a budget bill that funds primary and secondary education, and it appears schools can and will open on time for the new school year.
On Thursday, however, Rauner vetoed 19 other appropriations that would make up the bulk of the budget.
At the moment, the governor and Democrats who lead supermajorities in both chambers of the General Assembly do not appear close to a deal.
The legislature returns to Springfield on Tuesday.