Judges in Cook County Circuit Court and U.S. District Court in
Springfield are being asked to decide whether 30,000 state workers
will get their scheduled pay raises this year.
Illinois Gov. Pat
Quinn is trying to halt the raises -- totaling $75 million --
because he said the state cannot afford them. An arbitrator last
week said Quinn could not block raises guaranteed in the 2008
contract with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal
Employees, or AFSCME.
But Friday, Cook County Circuit Judge Richard Billik halted the
arbitrator's ruling, pending arguments in his court, which are
scheduled for Wednesday. AFSCME is seeking to enforce the 2008
contract in U.S. District Court.
The governor said in filings to the court in Chicago that not
only did lawmakers not include enough money for the pay raises, but
they shorted the new state budget so much that Illinois won't make
payroll for 12 state agencies for the full year.
State Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, said the Legislature
knew that a $33.2 billion budget would not be enough, and lawmakers
assumed Quinn would have to act. And while the governor signed an
agreement with the state's biggest public employee union that
forbids layoffs, Mautino said Quinn is well within his power to trim
the state workforce through other means.
"There would have to be elimination of positions," said Mautino.
"Instead of funding 10 people for three-quarters of the year, you'd
fund eight for the full year. That's in the power of the governor to
Quinn signed an agreement with AFSCME in 2010 that blocked the
governor from closing state facilities or ordering layoffs. He's
bound by that agreement, until the new state budget expires in July
However, state Rep. David Harris, R-Arlington Heights, said the
2010 union agreement does not prohibit eliminating positions.
"A layoff simply says that individual who is laid off will have
the expectation of being called back at some point," Harris said.
"If the position is eliminated, there is no expectation of being
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Quinn said Monday in Chicago that he hopes to convince lawmakers
to add funding to the state budget rather than force cuts.
"I'm open-minded that members of the General Assembly, when they
come back in October and November, if they want to re-look at the
budget ... I want to work with them to improve the budget. To make
it better," said Quinn.
Harris said Quinn first should manage the money he has in the
State Sen. Dan Kotowski, D-Park Ridge, said the budget was
centered on that same theme.
"The governor is going to have to manage the budget with less,"
Mautino adds that the governor may have a tough time convincing
lawmakers of the need to add more funding to the state budget. He is
quick to point out that lawmakers have agreed that if Illinois takes
in more than $33.2 billion, the extra money will be spent on
past-due bills. The current backlog is more than $4 billion and
could top $8 billion by December.
Mautino said he would expect lawmakers to approve more spending
only for the "most critical" areas, like human services.
Harris agrees, and he insists that the governor would have to
show the willingness to cut state spending before lawmakers will
give him more money to spend.
"We're certainly going to look very hard at any bill that would
grant (more money) to help out a situation that we didn't get
ourselves into. He did," said Harris.
Statehouse News; By BENJAMIN YOUNT]