Tuesday, June 16, 2015

15 days and counting down until the state financial (and labor) mess begins

We’ve come up with the absolute worse time for our state political officials to engage in a hissy fit and be incapable of reaching agreement on the measures that will define the state’s business in upcoming years.

Because not only does the state have to come up with a budget by June 30 for the fiscal year that begins July 1, they also have to negotiate a contract with the major labor union that represents the bulk of state government workers.

YOU CAN’T REALLY put together a budget that makes any sense if you don’t know what the terms are that your workforce will have to comply with.

It also complicates things when we have a governor whose primary agenda is to undermine the labor unions and the influence they play upon state government operations.

There are those who are convinced Rauner will be the ultimate holdout and refuse to do anything that would constitute serious negotiations toward a new contract. They think he’d like to see state workers go on strike so he could justify whatever hard-core opposition actions he fantasizes about.

In my mind (and those of a lot of other government observers), Rauner is anxious to do his Ronald Reagan impersonation – as in when he fired all the air traffic controllers rather than try to work with them to put together a sensible contract that would have benefitted all sides.

IN THAT CONTEXT, it was significant that a Rauner aide told the Associated Press that the governor, “is not going to lock out our employees.”

With American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees officials saying they have no intention of calling for a strike come July 1 (when the current contract will expire), that would mean state workers would continue on the job without a contract.

RAUNER: He wants to win more than govern
The tensions would increase, as we’d literally go day-by-day wondering if some sudden outburst will cause a shutdown of the work done by our state government agencies.

Of course, there are some people who are convinced Rauner himself will give those tensions a jolt. That he’d be the one who would make the workers so uncomfortable that they’d feel they had no choice but to walk off the job and start up picket lines outside the Thompson Center, the Statehouse in Springfield and many other state government buildings.

IT WAS IN that context that the General Assembly earlier this year approved a bill that prohibits state government employees from going on strike or being locked out of their jobs.
REAGAN: Rauner's role model?
The latter concern was the Legislature’s motivation for passing such a law – they probably believe the governor is dreaming of a lockout and his chance to impersonate Reagan!

None of this would be necessary if we had state officials who were willing to work together to try to reach a solution to the problems that confront government.

Instead, we have officials who are interested in making sure they come out of the “Battle of Springpatch – 2015” with a political victory; a fight that the public will lose no matter how it turns out.

I’LL BE HONEST. I lean toward the Legislature’s leadership on this battle because I have never been convinced that the anti-labor movement is in any way beneficial to the public.

It is meant to benefit the profit margins of corporate America, and those interests often can benefit at the expense of, “We, the people.” Whose concerns are the last thing that most companies care about!

But the purpose of legislators and the governor are to work together on behalf of those who elect them. The public could care less who gets the “brownie points” for winning the political fight, so long as government still provides the services we expect of it.

As for those individuals who want to believe government should get out of the business of providing those services, that’s a completely different ideological battle – and one that should not be allowed to interfere with the compilation of a budget for fiscal 2016.


1 comment:

Paul Selden said...

What does a shut down look like? No budget. No contracts. No workers to do the work of the state? Does someone come up with a continuing resolution? If not, then what? Have we been here before?