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February 16, 2018

Rauner 2019 Budget: Another attack on employees

Governor Rauner’s proposed 2019 state budget is just more of the same flim-flam that has pushed state government into ever deeper fiscal chaos. The budget is fundamentally unbalanced, propped up by a series of vague and unworkable schemes resting on taking away collective bargaining rights from public employees.

“Rauner’s budget plan threatens to destabilize our school systems, undermine our public universities, and create the kind of conflict and confusion that can only further damage our state’s reputation,” said Roberta Lynch, Council 31 executive director. “He’s recycling well-worn assaults on public service workers and retirees, seeking to impose unaffordably high health care costs, undermine retirement security and weaken union rights.”

Rauner’s proposal to impose much higher health care costs on state workers is illegal since a court order bars him from doing so. But his budget plan tries to end-run that restriction by taking away the right to negotiate over health care. His scheme to shift the state’s pension debt to school districts and universities would destabilize an already strained education system; and his latest push to cut the modest pensions that public employees earn and pay toward is unconstitutional.

“Once again our billionaire governor wants working people to bear the brunt of a fiscal crisis he helped create,” Lynch said. “Public service workers are on the job every day, often in demanding and dangerous jobs. They jeopardize their own safety to protect kids from abuse and neglect. They risk their own health to care for veterans and people with disabilities. They keep order in a prison system that’s understaffed and riven by violence.”

Lynch pointed out that units of local government are hurting too. “In recent years the state has cut funding that helps pay for police, fire, libraries, street maintenance, trash pickup and more,” she said. “The governor’s scheme to shift pension costs to school districts will greatly increase pressures on the property tax system that sustains local governments as well.”

“What we really need is a fair tax, with higher rates for people with higher incomes and lower rates for people with lower incomes,” Lynch concluded. “That's the fair way to raise enough revenue to pay the state's bills and invest in public services while finally getting rich people to pay their share. Illinois needs a budget that’s responsible, balanced and fair, but Rauner’s address made clear once again that we lack a governor committed to that cause.”