1 month, 1 week ago by Ben Yount, Illinois Watchdog
SPRINGFIELD — Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn says publicly that public-pension reform is “a paramount issue right now,” but that’s not stopping him from asking for more than $100 million to hike the pay of unionized public employees.
“In terms of fiscal issues, there’s a paramount issue right now, and that is pension reform,” Quinn told reporters last week. “We must not step back from it, we must step forward.”
At the same time, however, Quinn is asking lawmakers for $200 million in new spending, more than half of which will go to pay promised pay raises for the state’s public employees.
And that’s not sitting will with some lawmakers.
“Our unpaid bills have gone from $4 billion to $7 billion, this guy is a reckless ship when it comes to financial management,” state Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington said. “Yes, we need to live up to pour obligations, but (Quinn) needs to learn to live within our means.”
The governor’s office said the state was told by a judge it had to come through with promised pay increases, adding the state is simply following orders.
Quinn’s budget spokesman Abdson Pallasch said former Gov. Rod Blagojevich promised the pay bumps as part of a bargain he cut with the behemoth public labor union American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees before being ousted from office. The governor’s spokesman insists Quinn is simply paying the money that Illinois owes.
Under the deal, thousands of AFSCME workers will get a 2-percent raise, and they are asking it be paid with interest.
Illinois owes $7 billion in past due bills to everyone from companies who sell food to prisons to doctors who treated Medicaid clients. Those people are waiting about six months to be paid.
Some of the money in Quinn’s spending request — about $40 million— would go to Illinois prisons, but the bulk would go to salaries for public workers.
State Rep. Mike Tryon, R-Crystal Lake, said Quinn is revealing his true priorities, by spending more taxpayers dollars to take care of government workers.
“When you look at what we’re doing, giving $200 million to the AFSCME contract and increase the costs of pensions, it is getting to be a snowball that’s getting bigger and bigger,” Tryon said.
House Republican budget architect state Rep. David Harris, R-Arlington Heights, said he does not expect the Legislature to approve the governor’s new spending plan.
“I’ll take the governor at his word. He’s not going to do anything until pensions pass,” Harris said. “I assume he means (new spending) won’t pass until pensions pass.”