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Gov. Quinn says legislature’s budget forcing him to make ‘reductions’

Gov. PQuinn

Gov. Pat Quinn

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Updated: May 9, 2012 9:46AM

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Pat Quinn faced blistering attacks Tuesday from state government’s largest public employee union and his 2010 GOP rival for potentially going back on a campaign pledge not to lay off state workers as a response to a $2 billion budgetary shortfall.

Quinn was cagey about the specifics during a stop on the West Side Tuesday morning but made clear the General Assembly had tied his hands by not giving him enough spending authority. He said an announcement on layoffs and facility closures could be forthcoming later this week.

“There’s no question their decisions will result in a situation where our state won’t have enough money to get through the fiscal year so we have to make reductions. I’m prepared to do what has to be done. We’ll be talking about that later,” Quinn told reporters after an appearance at LaSalle II Magnet School in Chicago.

By even laying off one state worker, Quinn will be testing, if not outright violating, his agreement last year with AFSCME Council 31 not to jettison state workers before July 1, 2012 – a commitment he made to the union during the heat of the 2010 gubernatorial campaign against state Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) after scoring AFSCME’s endorsement.

During 2010, AFSCME Council 31 or its national parent contributed $575,000 to the coordinated campaign of Quinn and running mate Sheila Simon, state records show.

“Once again, Gov. Quinn is betraying the citizens of Illinois and proving that his word is suspect,” Brady said in a prepared statement. “First, he promises to veto any tax hike that raises the income tax more than 33 percent, and he signs a tax increase double the size. He promises in a campaign deal there will be no layoffs or closure of any state facilities, and now we see that he is going back on that agreement with the state’s largest public sector union. He is using state employees as pawns in this political game.”

AFSCME delivered a similar tongue-lashing, accusing Quinn of betraying the September no-layoff deal he signed with the union in exchange for delaying pay increases and winning furlough concessions.

“This course of action would be in direct violation of negotiated agreements with our union. Moreover, it would have a dire impact on the maintenance of public safety and the delivery of services of vital importance to the people of Illinois,” said Henry Bayer, executive director of AFSCME Council 31.

Quinn, however, said he legally has the authority to do whatever is necessary — up to and including layoffs or facility closures — if the General Assembly doesn’t provide enough money to keep state government fully functioning through the end of the fiscal year next June.

“All agreements are subject to the clause in the Illinois law that says ‘subject to appropriations,’” Quinn said. “If the General Assembly doesn’t appropriate the money, the governor doesn’t have the authority on his own motion to appropriate money.

“So I have to abide by the will of the General Assembly. They passed a budget that requires reductions. Therefore, we’ll have to carry those reductions out. It will be done in an orderly way,” the governor told reporters.

The maneuver comes less than two months before lawmakers return to Springfield for the fall veto session, when the Quinn administration intends to press for a supplemental spending bill.

To date, the governor has not shown Democrats in the House or Senate what layoffs or facility closures he might make in a move designed to gain leverage in pushing for those extra dollars.

Spokesmen for Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) and House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) said their bosses had not been briefed by the governor or his staff about potential cutbacks.

“I haven’t heard of a proposal so it would be hard to comment on sort of fragmentary — I guess that would be a polite word — reporting,” Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said.

Logistically, any move to close state facilities could easily take a year or longer because the General Assembly strengthened its oversight role after former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s thwarted attempts to close prisons in Vandalia and Pontiac.

AFSCME also has had success in blocking mass layoffs through the courts. The union convinced a Downstate judge to throw out Quinn’s efforts to lay off 2,600 state workers in 2009.

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