Amendment 1 would take away taxpayers’ voice in state government

Amendment 1 would take away taxpayers’ voice in state government

The proposed constitutional amendment would put union contracts above the interests of future taxpayers and voters

Illinois residents suffer under some of the most burdensome taxes in the nation when considering property taxes, income taxes, sales taxes, gas taxes, and all the other taxes that state and local governments pile on. And now, Illinois lawmakers backed by money from labor unions have passed an amendment that would effectively place a muzzle on taxpayers who want a say in how the state is run. If Illinois voters approve the amendment in the 2022 general election, Amendment 1 would enshrine collective bargaining as a fundamental right in Illinois and give provisions in union contracts precedence over any other laws passed.

What does that mean? It means that collective bargaining agreements negotiated between state and local politicians and union leaders would trump state law when it comes to anything related to conditions of employment, wages or workplace safety. For example, lawmakers could pass a law that pegs the annual cost-of-living adjustment for newly hired state workers’ pensions to the rate of inflation. But if the union negotiated a provision in its collective bargaining agreement that contradicted the law, it could negate the statute passed by the democratically elected legislature and signed into law by the democratically elected governor.

Amendment 1 was billed as an amendment that would protect Illinois from becoming a “right-to-work” state, where a private company cannot require employees to pay fees to a union as a condition of employment. The bill does, in fact, prohibit “any law or ordinance that prohibits the execution or application of agreements between employers and labor organizations that represent employees requiring membership in an organization as a condition of employment.”  But the claim that this amendment is merely a right-to-work ban is misleading. For one thing, Illinois is nowhere near becoming a right-to-work state. Illinois has already banned local right-to-work ordinances in state law, and Gov. Bruce Rauner’s efforts to pass right-to-work in Illinois were roundly rejected in the General Assembly. That is even less likely to happen now with supermajorities of Democrats in both chambers of the General Assembly and a Democrat in the governor’s mansion who has criticized right-to-work. Second, Amendment 1 does much more than ban right-to-work laws. It makes it impossible to reform any aspect of public employment – including taxpayer-funded salaries and benefits – through state law, including ill-considered pension sweeteners.

Taxpayers are effectively shut out of the conversation about how their money is spent. Taxpayers could elect lawmakers to look out for their interests, and those lawmakers could do everything in their power to pass laws that safeguard those interests. But if a public labor union negotiated a contract that contradicts those laws, then under Amendment 1, those laws will have no effect, and generous contracts that supersede state law will have to be paid for through higher taxes on Illinois families.

Taxpayers were given a voice in 2020 when they were asked to approve the progressive tax constitutional amendment. Voters responded with a resounding “no.” Now the General Assembly is ignoring the voters’ rejection of tax hikes by ensuring that generous union contracts can never be reformed through state law, guaranteeing more tax hikes for Illinois families in the future.

Illinois taxpayers deserve to have a say in how their money is spent in Springfield. They deserve to have the chance to democratically elect representatives who will implement policies that protect taxpayers’ interests. They deserve better than Amendment 1.

The good news is that taxpayers have the final say on this amendment. The question of whether to amend the state constitution will be placed on the November 2022 ballot. Taxpayers can reject the amendment before it becomes part of the constitution.

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