REEDER: Are you stickin’ with the union?

By   /   December 14, 2012  /   No Comments

OR WE COULD TALK ABOUT LINDSAY LOHAN: The guv’s latest effort to discuss pensions doesn’t include a snake.

By Scott Reeder | Special to Watchdog.org

FROM SQUEEZY TO HOT-DOG MEAT

Yes, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s latest pension video is rather amateurish. Thankfully it doesn’t feature Squeezy the Pension Python this time. Instead, this video features a group of children choosing to talk about pension debt rather than hot-dog meat.

And no, it isn’t particularly funny – even though it tries hard to be.

But come on, what do we expect? It was produced by the state of Illinois – not Walt Disney.

My main concern about the video isn’t its amateur quality but that it focused on spending rather than on savings.

The video shows how pension payments are outstripping what the state spends on early childhood education, child care services and other state programs.

It doesn’t mention that legislators raised income taxes 67 percent, or that the money this tax increase generated has gone almost exclusively toward paying for government employee pensions.

Nowhere in the video does Quinn even hint that we can make these children’s lives better by fixing the pension mess and lowering their parent’s taxes so they can better save for their college educations.

Instead, it takes a “government knows best” approach that suggests that if it weren’t for these doggone pensions, the state could focus on providing other government programs.

ARE YOU STICKIN’ WITH THE UNION?

In the last two years, our Midwest neighbors in Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan have curtailed the power of labor unions.

Just this week, Michigan became a Right-to-Work state.

Earlier this year it was Indiana.

In 2010, Wisconsin eliminated many collective bargaining privileges for most government unions.

Some in the Illinois Legislature would like to buck this trend by pushing legislation that’s more supportive of unions.

Whether this happens is up to three Chicago Democrats: House Speaker Michael Madigan, Gov. Quinn and Senate President John Cullerton.

A good legislative barometer for the next two years may well be what happens with three bills during the lame duck session:

  • SB1565 – Would raise the minimum wage to $10.55 from $8.25, which would give Illinois the highest minimum wage in the nation.
  • SB2643 – Would essentially keep non-union contractors from bidding on most local government projects, even if they agree to pay the prevailing wage.
  • SB3695 – Would expand the accounting responsibilities for non-union contractors, leaving them more vulnerable to a making a clerical error that could result in losing the ability to bid on government contracts.

There is also SB 1556, which would strip certain high-ranking state employees of their union representation.

“We are really concerned about the prevailing wage bill because it will just drive up the cost to local governments by limiting who can bid on contracts,” said Joe McCoy, a lobbyist for the Illinois Municipal League.

Kim Maisch, Illinois state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, said it unfairly penalizes non-union businesses even when they pay a “prevailing wage” equal to what union contractors are paying.

And the minimum wage bill is seen by many business groups as emblematic of state government’s indifference to business competiveness.

Whether the bills will be called is in the hands of the Democratic leaders.

It will be interesting to see what they do next month in the wake of the Michigan Right-to-Work vote.

Scott Reeder is a senior contributing editor to Watchdog.org, veteran statehouse reporter and journalist in residence at the Illinois Policy Institute. Readers can subscribe to his free reports from the Springfield by going to REEDERREPORT.COM. Contact him at sreeder@illinoispolicy.org.


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