WE ARE ILLINOIS
Selling out Illinois
Chicago Tribune Editorial: Selling out Illinois. We used that headline a year ago when news broke that Gov. Pat Quinn had cut a craven deal with AFSCME, the state's largest employees union. The governor agreed that the state, though it faced massive debts, would not lay off a single state worker or close any state institutions for nearly two years, through June 2012.
In exchange, the union made some minor cost concessions. Within days of the deal, the union endorsed the governor's bid for election. Think that was pure coincidence? Quinn brought the state budget director to his endorsement interview with AFSCME.
Quinn sold out the state. And now his feeble bid to unravel his own craven deal has been stomped down by an arbitrator. On Monday, the arbitrator ruled that Quinn's bid to lay off 1,900 workers and shut down a handful of institutions cannot go forward … because Quinn has to honor his own deal.
Quinn says he should be able to wriggle out of the AFSCME deal because the Legislature didn't provide enough money to keep everybody working. But Quinn knew when he made the deal that, even with the whopping state income tax increase he later signed, the state wouldn't have the money to protect every job and every institution unless it consorted to more fiscal recklessness.
But he cut the deal anyway. He sold out the state.
Quinn says he will appeal the arbitrator's ruling. Maybe he will prevail in court, though we doubt it.
But even if a court eventually rules for the governor, the damage is done. Quinn cut this deal one year ago. The state's hands have been tied for that year. Every day this winds through the legal process is another day the state's hands are tied.
We suspect the governor never wanted to cut the payroll of his union supporters. He knew he couldn't unravel the deal he made. He pushed the Legislature to cave, to approve even more borrowing and spending. The Legislature approved the income tax increase. But then it said 'no more.' The Legislature finally, finally, called his bluff.
Quinn, arbitrator's ruling in hand, will probably try to goad legislators into more taxing, borrowing and spending.
Illinois hasn't got the money to play. The state has failed to pay its bills. It has racked up tens of billions of dollars in debt. It has tens of billions more in pension and health-care obligations for its workers and state retirees. Quinn already jacked up taxes, and irate employers are threatening to leave the state. That tax increase will bring in more money, but public employee pensions soak up every dime of that tax hike.
The state will have to scramble between now and July 1 to operate under the governor's self-inflicted wound. So what's the state to do? Prepare to close several state institutions on July 1. Prepare for big layoffs.
And finally, finally, deal with the single greatest fiscal problem in the state: the unaffordable pensions that have been promised to the state workforce. For more on that, please read the other editorial on this page.
SOURCE: Chicago Tribune
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