Thursday, October 07, 2010
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Brady strikes labor deal of his own

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[October 07, 2010]  CHICAGO -- Republican gubernatorial nominee Bill Brady has seized on Gov. Pat Quinn's deal with his backers in one of the state's largest labor unions as evidence that he is just another Rod Blagojevich.

HardwareBut the Bloomington senator may have his own endorsement deal to answer for, after a month of pledging to exempt one of his largest labor supporters from his 10 percent cuts.

Brady made headlines on Sept. 7 when he was endorsed by the largest police union in the state, the 34,000-member Fraternal Order of Police.

"I am committed to ensuring that you have the best information and intelligence available in real time to do your job. And the best training, resources and equipment to do your job as well," he said in a release following the endorsement.

That commitment has trumped the senator's pledge to reduce all government departments by 10 percent.

He said as recently as the first gubernatorial debate on Sept. 29 that he would not be cutting anything other than self-identified "waste" from public safety departments -- a far cry from the "dime on every dollar" cuts he has proposed for other areas of government.

"I sat there encouraged and surprised (by the announcement)," said Ted Street, president of the Fraternal Order of Police.

Street said Brady assured union leaders at a private meeting in July that they would be at the table when cuts are made: a move he said "has never been done before."

"Sen. Brady has reached out and asked that I facilitate a meeting between state troopers lodge (of the union) ... and the Department of Corrections lodge ... to come up with and organize cost-cutting measures," Street said. "Sen. Brady has offered us input, a voice of representation in the decision-making process."

Brady blasted Quinn for a deal the governor negotiated with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union shortly after the group endorsed him. The deal will prevent the state from laying off workers, in exchange for furlough days, wage freezes and cost-cutting measures identified by the union itself.

Brady said such measures represented only "limited budget efficiencies" and the entire deal smacked of "pay-to-play politics" a la the Rod Blagojevich era. Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich this summer was convicted of one count of corruption in federal court, and is set to be retried on the remaining 20-plus counts early in 2011.

Brady's campaign says that bringing the union to the table to negotiate cuts is nothing out of the ordinary for his management style.

"Bill asks everybody on the street and it is going to take everybody's input and ideas to recover from the fiscal crisis Pat Quinn has put us in," campaign spokeswoman Patty Schuh said. "Bill's talked to the education association, he's talked to AFSCME, he's talked to everybody."

The Quinn campaign is skeptical the senator will stay true to his pledges to exempt even his supporters in public safety from cuts.

"He's given no details like that. We've never seen any commitment about protecting public safety or other front-line employees from cuts," Quinn spokeswoman Mica Matsoff said.

Brady has made public safety a staple in his campaign. Quinn's handling of an early prisoner release program that freed more than 1,700 inmates, including violent offenders, has been the subject of more campaign advertising than any other issue.

"I'm Bill Brady and as governor, I'll protect you," he said in his most recent campaign advertisement, dubbed "The Right Thing."

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The senator would be hard-pressed to attack Quinn for the early release program while pledging drastic cuts to the budgets of cops and prison guards statewide. But he now finds himself accusing Quinn of selling out the people of Illinois for his suspect deals with political supporters, while negotiating a similar one on a signature issue. His two-pronged attack now appears double-edged.

What it all comes down to is timing, according to one political observer.

Kent Redfield, director of the Institute for Legislative Studies at the University of Illinois Springfield, said both candidates have acted as their own worst enemies by inviting scrutiny into their respective endorsements.

"What was really bad about (Quinn's deal) is the timing of it and the way it was handled; it certainly gives the appearance of -- if not a quid pro quo -- some kind of trade-off, which is just made for TV ads," he said.

"(Brady's) certainly isn't as dramatic because we are not signing any legal documents with them, but when you're making policy pronouncements about people who are endorsing you, you're raising questions in people's minds about what is going on; it's corrosive to public support," he said.

The Republican's poll numbers have already fallen victim to corrosion. Recent polls show Brady trailing the governor by the narrowest of margins, after seeing his early lead whittled away by attack ads from the Quinn camp.

Brady has responded by invoking the memory of recently convicted former governor -- and Quinn running mate -- Rod Blagojevich in campaigns ads and mailers. He has posted six press releases, including one TV ad, likening the AFSCME deal to the corrupt politics of Quinn's predecessor.

"Every time he sells us out, we learn that Pat Quinn's only priority is Pat Quinn," a grave voice reads above newspaper editorials criticizing the "pay-to-play" deal. "We need a clean break now."

That message appeals to Brady's constituents in the police union.

"In looking at the membership of the Illinois FOP, they are following with the national trend of out with the old and in with the new," Street said.

The union boss said his members have yet to appoint representatives to negotiate cuts with Brady in the event he is voted governor, but he expects a meeting to occur before the election.

Brady is confident negotiations can produce more efficiency in the sector.

"Bill has said everything is going to be looked at when he makes the budget cuts, and he has been told there has been waste fraud and abuse and that reasonable cuts can be made to public safety," Schuh said.

[Illinois Statehouse News; By BILL McMORRIS]

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