Despite a public pledge stating that public workers will not be laid off to close budget gaps, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn is moving to layoff some 1,900 state workers citing budget shortfalls. The move has reignited a bitter dispute between the Governor and the state workers union. The Governor says that job cuts are the only way to avoid a partial government shutdown before the end of this fiscal year.
In addition to layoffs, seven public facilities will be closed in order to save money according to the Governors announcement. According to Quinn, the layoffs and closures are the result of the state legislature failing to approve enough money to keep the state running. Spokespeople for the administration were quick to point out that if there were new appropriations the state could avoid the cuts and closures.
The layoffs and closures are expected to happen around the first of the year. The Governor said he’s holding off until then in order to give state lawmakers time to examine their choices. Currently, Illinois has billions in unpaid bills that the legislature left unaccounted for at the end of the last session. Money for those bills will likely come from the funds appropriated for this fiscal year, leaving the state without enough money to maintain these jobs and facilities.
The layoffs have also given fuel to the public workers union in Illinois. AFSCME Council 31, took Governor Quinn to court over his denial of pay raises in existing union contracts citing lack of funds. The union contends that the state is contractually obligated to live up to its promises of pay raises and no layoffs. The new call for layoffs from the Governor is may force new court actions.
“It simply doesn’t hold water, just the common sense that you can agree to a contract and then later say, ‘It’s not convenient for me to live up to the contract.’ That wouldn’t be good enough for any of us with our credit card bills. It shouldn’t be good enough for collective bargaining,” AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall said.