February 04, 2015

AFSCME responds to governor's State of the State address

Today – Wednesday, Feb. 4 – AFSCME Council 31 executive director Roberta Lynch issued the following statement in response to Gov. Bruce Rauner's State of the State address:

“Today Governor Rauner stressed working together for a better Illinois, but too many of the policies he put forth would foster division rather than find common ground.

“As the governor spoke, public employees all across Illinois at every level of government are working in their communities to provide vital services on which citizens depend: Helping veterans, caring for the aged and disabled, protecting at-risk children, safeguarding our air and water, responding to emergencies and natural disasters, maintaining roads and parks, keeping prisons and jails secure. It’s a list that could go on and on.

“These public servants will be disappointed to learn that the governor is pursuing an aggressive agenda to undermine their rights to a voice on the job and in the democratic process.

“Our state faces real problems that must be addressed, but the portrait the governor painted today is unduly gloomy. Illinois still outranks most of our neighboring states in household income and worker productivity. And in a new report issued today, Moody’s Analytics concludes that our state’s business climate ‘outshines regional rivals.’

“More important, the solutions Governor Rauner offered fail to address the real problems that exist, instead serving only to weaken the middle class. As Moody’s points out, the anti-union ‘right-to-work’ proposals at the center of the governor’s policy agenda would ‘erode wages and lead to a more uneven distribution of the gains of economic growth.’

“Any effort to drive down middle-class wages – for workers in the public sector or the private sector – would fly in the face of the governor’s pledge today to ‘create a booming economy while increasing incomes for workers.’

“Meanwhile, the governor’s proposal to bar public employees from participating in our democracy would further tilt a playing field already weighted heavily in favor of big business and the wealthy. And while seeking to shut working people out of the halls of power, he leaves free access to the scores of corporations that have secured for themselves tax breaks costing Illinois taxpayers some $2 billion annually.

“We welcome the governor’s recognition of the dangerous conditions in our state’s prisons and his commitment to improve staffing levels. However, we take strong issue with his implication that state employees are not providing quality services and doing the best possible job they can for the citizens of our state. Illinois has the fewest state employees per capita of any state in the country. Those employees are called on every day to go the extra mile – and they do so time and time again. Nor do we agree with his dismissal of employee longevity as a factor in maintaining quality services. Many state jobs are complex and highly specialized, training is costly and experience is vital.

“Public employees are helpers and problem solvers. We stand ready to work constructively to make Illinois an even better place to live. That’s what AFSCME members have always done and are prepared to do again if we have in Governor Rauner a willing partner. AFSCME will continue to advance our values of improving public services for the people of Illinois, and of respect and fair treatment for the workers who provide those services. We hope the governor will concur with us in that spirit.”

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