Union, state of Illinois reach deal that could bar government layoffs for nearly 2 years

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Gov. Pat Quinn has reached a deal with a major union that could save the Illinois government between $50 million and $100 million while barring layoffs of most state employees, both sides said Monday.

Under the agreement, the state won't cut jobs or close institutions until June 2012 if the union approves at least $50 million in costcutting measures, said Anders Lindall, Illinois spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The savings, from steps such as furlough days, reduced overtime and changes in health insurance, could reach $100 million, he said.

Quinn's Republican opponent criticized the deal for tying the hands of the next governor.

The agreement, which was first reported by Crain's Chicago Business, amounts to a one-year extension of a similar deal barring layoffs in exchange for union concessions. The union and the Quinn administration say the earlier agreement produced about $170 million in savings.

Quinn spokeswoman Kelly Kraft said the deal will not only save money but "also keep people employed during one of the worst economic downturns in history."

Both sides denied that the agreement, which has not yet been signed, has any connection to the union's recent endorsement of Quinn in the governor's race. They said negotiations have been under way for weeks.

But state Sen. Bill Brady, the Republican nominee for governor, said the deal "reminds voters of the pay-to-play politics that I seek to end."

"The Quinn administration should not agree to anything that limits Illinois' flexibility to manage this catastrophe," Brady said in a statement.

State government faces a budget deficit of roughly $13 billion.

Measured against the size of its population, Illinois has one of the nation's smallest state government work forces.

Lindall, the union spokesman, suggested Illinois gains new savings under the deal while giving up very little because further layoffs aren't realistic.

"Could they just save more money by laying people off? I don't know that they could," Lindall said. "And if they could, it would have profound consequences for harming vital services and throwing more people out of work."