Quinn cuts staff pay after controversy over raises

Monday, July 19, 2010

CHICAGO — Gov. Pat Quinn said Friday he’s cutting the pay of all nonunion state employees through unpaid days off, just weeks after it was revealed he’s been giving raises of 20 percent and more to his own staff.

Quinn will require his staff, state managers and policymakers to take 24 unpaid days off this year, up from 12 days last year, he said. Quinn also plans to take the 24 unpaid days.

“It is something we must do and the governor must set the pace,” he said in Chicago. “This budget year we’re going to have constant review.”

The days off will translate into a 9.2 percent salary cut and will save the state about $18 million in fiscal year 2011, he said. Though employees will be taking home less money, the move isn’t an official change in salary, and Quinn said it won’t affect their pensions.

The Democratic governor came under fire after an Associated Press analysis revealed earlier this month that he’s given 43 salary increases averaging 11.4 percent to 35 staffers in his office the past 15 months. Many of the increases went to people with new jobs or more duties, but about one-third were simply described as salary adjustments.

Editorials statewide hammered Quinn for the raises, saying he set a bad example during a time of fiscal crisis. The budget Quinn signed this month for the fiscal year that began July 1 would borrow money and delay bill payments, along with cutting about $1.4 billion in spending. Quinn may have to come up with another $3.7 billion for pensions if legislators continue to deny him permission to borrow the money.

His Republican opponent in November’s election, Bill Brady, said Illinois residents would have to pay for the raises while struggling to make ends meet. Quinn had defended the raises, saying that despite the increases, he has cut his staff and reduced the office’s overall spending by 35 percent. Most of that reduction is slated for the coming year and hasn’t taken place yet.

Brady accused Quinn on Friday of bowing to pressure.
“Governor Quinn protects big government at all costs, and only responds after pressure from taxpayers and the media,” Brady said in a statement.

But Quinn said he didn’t make the cuts because of criticism. He said his reasons included little assurance from federal lawmakers at a National Governors Association meeting last weekend that states would get much financial help and constant review of the budget.

Rep. Jack Franks, a Woodstock Democrat who opposed the raises for Quinn’s staff, said there are better ways for the governor to save money.

“Governor Quinn ought to first cut the one billion dollars of member initiatives, a.k.a. pork projects, before hurting front line employees,” Franks said in an e-mail.

In announcing the new order, Quinn also urged members of the General Assembly and their staffs to take 24 unpaid days off. And he called on the state’s largest employee union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, to give up extra days without pay.

The union already is urging its members to take 12 voluntary furlough days this year, and spokesman Anders Lindall said leaders would be willing to listen to Quinn’s proposals for more.

“Any steps taken have to be done in the context of putting public services first and not placing an inordinate burden on the front line state employees who provide those services,” Lindall said.