Saturday, July 17, 2010
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Quinn reacts to pay raise controversy, orders more time off

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[July 17, 2010]  SPRINGFIELD -- After more than a week of being hounded for doling out raises to his top staffers, Gov. Pat Quinn has ordered unpaid days off for more than 2,700 state workers.

Quinn on Friday used his new emergency budget powers and ordered 24 new furlough days for nonunion state employees. Last year, such workers took 12 furlough days.

The governor insists that the "shared sacrifice" should put to rest any complaints about what he pays his budget director and other top officials.

"It's very important to cut the overall budget of the office. Which is what I have done. I have cut my own salary. ... My deeds match my words," said Quinn.

Quinn said he will take the two dozen furlough days along with 2,700 other merit comp employees. Those day without pay should add up to $18 million in savings, according to the governor's budget estimates.

"I'm still going to be working, every single day. ... But I'm not going to get paid for 24 days. That's going to be true for my staff as well as the other policymakers and managers in state government. This amounts to a 9.2 percent salary cut," he said.

(See AP article: Quinn cuts staff pay after raises flap)

But Quinn's opponent this fall, state Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, said that's too little and too late.

""Today's fourteen hundredths of one percent reduction out of a $13 billion budget gap shows Governor Quinn protects big government at all costs, and only responds after pressure from taxpayers and the media," Brady said in a statement.

The GOP candidate for governor said the furlough order is "yet another slap in the face of taxpayers."

Quinn responded with his own criticism of Brady's vote to maintain legislative pay and his attendance in Springfield.

But Brady is not the only Republican blasting the governor. State Rep. Rich Brauer, R-Petersburg, represents an area with a lot of state workers and says they know the score.

"A lot of people will see this trick for what it is for and that's to try and misdirect the criticism for giving these raises out at a time when that wasn't acceptable. ... It's just a cheap political trick," said Brauer.

He expects lawmakers to try to push back the order. But Brauer also acknowledges that the legislature gave Quinn extraordinary powers to manage the budget. Though Brauer said the governor is managing poorly.

"You take the people that got pay raises. They now have a 9 percent cut on top of their 20 percent pay increase, so what you've done is essentially given them an 11 percent increase and a month off," he said.

Quinn insists he is doing what he can with what he has. And he said more furloughs may be on the way. Quinn wants to sit down with the state's employee unions to talk about furloughs for the tens of thousands of workers not covered by his Friday order.

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"If the money isn't there to pay the employees and we can't negotiate further unpaid days off, then we have to look at the only alternative we have under the contract, and this is layoffs," Quinn said.

The governor said he doesn't want to have to order layoffs. And he may not be able to order many, at least during this budget year.

Anders Lindall with AFSCME, Illinois' largest public employees union, said the union and the state have a mediated resolution that prevents any layoffs or facility closings. That deal isn't set to expire until next July.

But Lindall insists the union's 40,000 members are willing to listen to the governor and are trying to help.

"(AFSCME is) always available to listen to what the governor has to say and what proposals he has in mind."

Quinn has not set a date for talks with AFSCME or any other union representing public employees. Workers covered by Friday's furlough order have until the end of next June to take their 24 unpaid days.

[Illinois Statehouse News; By BENJAMIN YOUNT]

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