Rauner sticks to union-weakening demand to end stalemate – Chicago Tribune

8 Oct

Gov. Bruce Rauner restated his demand Wednesday that weakening the collective bargaining rights of public workers must be part of a deal to end the political stalemate that has kept Illinois without a budget since July 1.But House Speaker Michael Madigan, who controls the Democratic majority in the chamber, renewed his long-standing call for the Republican governor to focus on the budget and not on issues that would create “a lower standard of living for middle-class families.”The comments by Rauner, speaking at the annual luncheon of the Southland Chamber of Commerce, and a statement issued by Madigan showed there has been no visible progress in Illinois’ gridlocked government as many social service agencies are having financial problems.Upward of 90 percent of services are being funded largely by court order, and state spending is at the same rate as last year. Couple that with the January rollback of a state income tax hike, and the state is on a path to a potential $8.5 billion deficit in the current budget year.In his speech, Rauner contended that a change in collective bargaining inside government “is not a radical idea and it is not a partisan idea.” The governor said Democrats across the country have made union-weakening rules, including in Illinois by allowing the outsourcing of Chicago Public Schools janitors and the elimination of CPS union teachers’ ability to negotiate over longer school hours.”It’s not about Republicans versus Democrats. It’s about good government. It’s about making sure tax dollars go to education, economic growth, tourism marketing and services for the most vulnerable — not to expensive government bureaucracy,” Rauner said.Gov. Bruce RaunerGov. Bruce Rauner arrives Oct. 7, 2015, for a speech at the Southland Chamber of Commerce. (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune)”It’s time we in Illinois get serious about collective bargaining reform and unfunded mandate relief in government. It’s a critical bipartisan issue where we can find common ground. Getting rid of unfunded mandates and giving decision-making authority on bargaining, bidding and contracting back to local communities,” he said.Rauner repeatedly has pushed for legislation giving local governments and school districts the option of collectively bargaining with unions over wages and other working conditions. He also has pushed to end communities having to pay prevailing union wage rates to construction firms working on public projects.Those issues are part of his proposal to freeze local property taxes. But Democrats, with strong allies in organized labor, have approved only a local property tax freeze with no changes to collective bargaining.Rauner also said the only way to “guarantee” saving $750 million in state worker group health insurance costs as part of a plan pushed by Democrats would be to have lawmakers vote to remove unions from negotiating health insurance coverage in collective bargaining.The governor also touted $1 billion savings each for state and local governments if lawmakers changed public employee pensions by basing it on whether workers give up the right to have future pay hikes included in their retirement calculations.Rauner once again said Democrats, who have supermajorities in the House and Senate, should either negotiate with him and minority Republicans or pass a tax increase and override his veto. Rauner has made union-weakening provisions in state law a precondition for considering a tax increase.”Please choose now. Choose now. Time’s up. Let’s be reasonable. The people of Illinois have been waiting long enough,” Rauner said.

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