New report shows high cost of AFSCME demands for Illinois taxpayers

New report shows high cost of AFSCME demands for Illinois taxpayers

A new report from the Heritage Foundation shows that in 2014 alone, collective bargaining between Illinois’ government-worker unions and Illinois officials inflated state and local government spending by $4 billion to $9 billion.

Insatiable demands by government unions – such as the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees – are propelling Illinois toward financial disaster.

A new report from the Heritage Foundation confirms the drastic effect AFSCME’s demands have on Illinois taxpayers. In 2014 alone, collective bargaining between Illinois’ government-worker unions and Illinois officials inflated state and local government spending by $4 billion to $9 billion – money Illinois simply did not have.

Illinois’ imbalance of power earned the state a ranking of 47th in the nation – nearly the worst in the country – when it comes to the detrimental effect government-worker unions have on state spending.

Illinois’ ranking is not a complete surprise for a state that is also burdened with over $7 billion in unpaid bills and $111 billion in unfunded pensions.

AFSCME represents approximately 35,000 state workers in Illinois, and its most recent contract with the state expired June 30, 2015. Since then, AFSCME and the state have engaged in at least 67 negotiating sessions in an attempt to agree on a new contract. Yet despite the state’s efforts to mitigate the looming financial disaster, AFSCME continues to demand more in negotiations with the governor – a burden Illinois taxpayers would ultimately have to bear.

To help ease that financial burden and avoid widespread layoffs, Gov. Bruce Rauner has proposed a four-year wage freeze, while also proposing over $200 million in additional compensation in the form of bonuses when employees meet simple, objective standards – such as not having unexcused absences. He has asked only the state employees who choose the state’s most expensive, platinum health plan to contribute a fraction more for health insurance, while also seeking to increase the number of plan options so employees can choose the plan that best fits their financial needs. And the governor has requested a 40-hour workweek, as opposed to a 37.5-hour week, before covered state employees are eligible for overtime.

Such efforts would also help ensure that state employees’ income and contributions to health insurance more closely resemble those of Illinoisans in the private sector – i.e., those Illinoisans who are paying AFSCME salaries. Between 2005 and 2014, a widening gap emerged between AFSCME members and taxpayers in the state, with AFSCME salaries rising five times faster than other Illinois worker earnings and two times faster than the rate of inflation.

The state has also made a number of concessions during negotiations, such as withdrawing proposals regarding changes to the pension system.

On the other hand, AFSCME refuses to back down from any of its financially draining demands, including four-year pay increases of 11.5 to 29 percent, as well as expensive health insurance at little cost to AFSCME members.

Negotiations came to a halt Jan. 8, when AFSCME’s chief negotiator left the meeting stating, “I have nothing else to say and am not interested in hearing what you have to say at this point – carry that message that back to your principals.” On Jan. 15, Rauner indicated that negotiations had, therefore, reached an impasse and directed the state’s labor relations team to submit the issue to the Illinois Labor Relations Board. Should the board determine the two sides negotiated in good faith and the governor has submitted his best and final offer, the governor will have the authority to implement that offer.

In the meantime, AFSCME has made its intentions clear. Instead of seeking the best interest of Illinoisans, it demands increased government spending that will only hasten the state’s financial disaster.

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