Though Democratic Illinois Governor Pat Quinn's Friday announcement of the cancellation of some 30,000 state employee's anticipated raises was described as "illegal and irresponsible" by the state's largest public employee union, the governor stood by the move and added that he was ready to defend his decision in court in comments made to a group of reporters Tuesday.
Quinn maintained that his move followed the law because the state's general assembly had failed to appropriate the money necessary to cover the state employees' raises in the budget they approved.
"If they decide to sue that's their right, we will be happy to meet them in court," Quinn said, as reported by WBEZ. "But the bottom line if you look at the law of Illinois, it says over and over again -- subject to appropriations."
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31 and some of the state's Democratic lawmakers have rejected Quinn's contention.
According to the Chicago Tribune, AFSCME questioned why the governor did not step in and warn legislators in Springfield that the raises were not covered by the budget they prepared. The union, which last week said Quinn's raise cancellation is worse than how Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker handled collective bargaining questions, is now reportedly weighing its legal options.
“The governor has the responsibility as the employer to pay the scheduled increases, he can’t walk away because he doesn’t want to or finds it inconvenient,” AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall told the Tribune. “This really at the end of the day is not about a pay increase, it’s about the integrity of collective bargaining, about the good of the governor’s word.”
State Rep. Ken Dunkin (D) did not take kindly to Quinn shifting the blame of the cancelled raises to the general assembly.
"Throwing us under the bus on this issue is just simply not fair," Dunkin told ABC 7. "He made the agreement, it was his deal, and if we need to come back and address it, that's what we need to do."
Downstate, Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg) told the Bloomington Pantagraph he had heard from a number of his unionized public employee constituents concerned with the news over the long holiday weekend.
“People understand that times are tough, but these raises are part of a contract,” Phelps told the Pantagraph. “I think he should honor that contract.”
The cancelled raises account for an estimated $77 million in savings for the state.