Quinn says he'll meet with union to discuss furloughs, announces run for election
Gov. Pat Quinn said he will meet with a key union leader Monday about his efforts to have state workers take unpaid days off as a money-saving measure.
Quinn, speaking after officially opening the Illinois State Fair, said the meeting with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 could also cover the idea of a wage freeze as a way of saving more money and reducing the need for worker layoffs.
"Taxpayers come first. We have to make reductions," Quinn said.
Quinn has already initiated the furlough process, directing state agencies to develop plans for employees to take unpaid days off while ensuring that state operations continue. Quinn repeated Friday that "certain employees who are in jobs that affect life and death will be excused" from furloughs.
But while Quinn can order non-union workers to take days off, he must bargain with unions over the issue.
"We have indicated we are always available to listen to what the governor may have to say," said AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall.
That doesn't mean the union will go along with Quinn's plan.
"From our side of the table we will be saying very clearly and strongly our focus is on making sure no employee is laid off and services are protected," Lindall said. "We don't believe state employees should bear the brunt of a budget crisis that is much larger than the entire state payroll."
AFSCME Executive Director Henry Bayer will not make the final decision. That's up to AFSCME's bargaining committee comprised of dozens of local leaders. They likely will meet with administration officials on the furlough issue in early September, Lindall said.
Documents released by the administration last week show that employees are expected to take 12 unpaid days off between now and June 30. Five of those days are supposed to be taken before January 1.
Quinn said he, too, will take 12 furlough days before June 30.
Lindall said the union will continue to press for a tax hike as a way of preserving services and avoiding layoffs. Quinn said he hasn't given up on the idea and will press it when lawmakers return to Springfield in October for the veto session.
"We have to have revenue to pay the bills. I'm not backing off of that," Quinn said.
Also Friday, Quinn:
_Confirmed he will run for a full term as governor in 2010. "I think I'm doing a good job. I think I will be a good candidate," Quinn said.
Quinn was elevated to governor in January after his predecessor, Rod Blagojevich, was impeached and removed from office. Quinn will face Comptroller Dan Hynes in the Democratic primary.
_Said he is still reviewing ethics legislation approved by lawmakers last spring. Quinn did not rule out the possibility he might make changes to the legislation rather than simply sign it into law.
"The governor has the power of the amendatory veto. I plan to exercise all of the powers of the governor to make things as good as possible," Quinn said.
He added that the ethics bill "wasn't perfect. It was good enough to get started on."
_Said people shouldn't overreact to the fact some communities are banning video poker machines now that the state has legalized payouts on them. Gambling revenue from video poker machines is supposed to help pay for the public works construction bill approved last spring. Quinn pushed for the provision that allows local governments to outlaw the machines rather than permit gambling on them in their communities.
Gambling revenue isn't the only funding source for the construction projects. Even if more communities ban the machines, Quinn said, "There is adequate funding to do a very robust capital bill," Quinn said.
Doug Finke can be reached at (217) 788-1527 firstname.lastname@example.org.