Lawmakers say it would be a bad idea to make some state workers take no pay for up to a dozen holidays to help cover the 24 furlough days Gov. Pat Quinn wants them to take in the new fiscal year.
It would be a bad idea to make some state workers take no pay for up to a dozen holidays a year, lawmakers said Monday.
“I think even Scrooge gets Christmas off,” said state Rep. Rich Brauer, R-Petersburg.
Gov. Pat Quinn, who asked nonunion state workers to take 12 furlough days in the fiscal year that ended June 30, recently called for doubling that number in the new fiscal year.
That has raised questions about how state employees could get their work done if they are off work for nearly five business weeks, plus vacation, holidays and other time off.
Brauer said he had “heard from a pretty good source” that the Quinn administration is considering eliminating holiday pay for the nonunion workers, effectively making those holidays – 13 this year and 12 next – unpaid furlough days.
“I’ve heard that that’s what they’re passing back and forth,” Brauer said. “Even strong Democrats are upset with that.”
With Illinois at the bottom among states in terms of number of workers per resident, such a furlough order would be “ridiculous,” he said.
The Capitol Fax newsletter last week reported the possible use of holidays as furlough days, though Brauer said he had also received similar reports from within state agencies.
“It’s ridiculous to take a small segment of society and say we’re going to make you suffer, and that’s exactly what this has done – not only once, but twice,” Brauer said, referring to the nonunion workers. While about 2,700 people are in that category in the state workforce, some are exempt from furloughs because they are paid with federal dollars, or for other reasons.
Brauer said it doesn’t make sense to try to balance the state budget by cutting pay for 2,000 people when the full state workforce is more than 50,000.
Asked about the holiday proposal, Kelly Kraft, spokeswoman for Quinn’s budget office, said, “We’re considering all options – and some may vary on an agency-by-agency basis.”
Kraft said the Quinn administration intends to issue further details about the furlough program to employees this week.
She said the administration also is working with the State Employees’ Retirement System to see how employees near retirement can protect their pensions from being affected by furloughs.
State Rep. Raymond Poe, R-Springfield, said he also doesn’t like the idea of making unpaid holidays count toward furlough days.
“You have those days coming anyway,” Poe added, “I don’t think there’s a lot of common sense right there.”
State Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield, said he doesn’t like the furlough program, but if more furlough days are required, they shouldn’t be on holidays.
“I mean, it’s just a kind of double-whammy for these folks,” Bomke said.
Bernard Schoenburg can be reached at 217-788-1540.
State worker holidays (13 in calendar 2010 and and 12 in 2011)
New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Day, Lincoln’s birthday, President’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, General Election Day (2010 only), Veterans Day, Thanksgiving (two days each year), Christmas.
Source: Illinois Department of Central Management Services
Bomke: Tax hike OK if targeted to pay bills
State Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield, told Gov. Pat Quinn’s chief of staff Monday he would be open to a tax increase if it were specifically targeted to pay for borrowing that could pay off the state’s current bills.
Bomke said he left a message on Gov. Pat Quinn’s telephone Friday, voicing concern about the effect of too many furlough days on state workers. He got a call Monday from chief of staff Jerry Stermer.
“I know that Pat Quinn’s a decent guy,” Bomke told The State Journal-Register. “I had a call from a mother of two, in tears, (who) doesn’t make a lot of money, and this is just devastating families.”
Bomke said he told Stermer that payroll cuts aimed at those workers “really doesn’t amount to hardly anything” versus the multi-billion-dollar state debt.
Stermer asked Bomke if he would vote for a borrowing plan that GOP senators in general have not agreed to, Bomke said.
“I said I would consider it,” Bomke said, but wondered how it would be paid back.
Bomke then asked about a plan to eliminate the state’s deficit. He said he asked if there is “any thought to doing some short-term borrowing – five, 10, 15, 20 years, and maybe passing a tax? Pay off our bills, make us whole again, and then using a tax to pay off those bonds.
“People are receptive,” Bomke said. “We’ve got a deficit, and what I’m hearing from conservative folks – not everyone – but they’re receptive” to passing a tax designated for such a purpose.
The Republican candidate for governor, Bill Brady, has said he opposes new taxes.
“I’m not running for governor,” Bomke said. “I think Bill Brady probably has a plan, and at some point, I’m sure he’s going to disclose it.”
Patty Schuh, spokeswoman for Brady, responded that Quinn “has demonstrated he cannot manage Illinois’ financial crisis.”
-- Bernard Schoenburg