Rauner speaks out on the fallacy of ‘extreme’ reforms

Heather Weiner

Heather Weiner is formerly the Illinois Policy’s Government Affairs Staff Attorney.

Heather Weiner
October 9, 2015

Rauner speaks out on the fallacy of ‘extreme’ reforms

Gov. Bruce Rauner calls on Illinois lawmakers to save costs for the state by enacting collective-bargaining reforms for its government-worker unions.

The budget stalemate in Springfield shows no sign of letting up: The General Assembly is only scheduled to meet three times before the end of the year, and Gov. Bruce Rauner predicted Oct. 4 that the impasse “could go on for a while.” But this week did see an interesting change in the governor’s rhetoric, combatting the notion that Republican demands are unreasonable.

The governor spoke to the Chicago Southland Convention and Visitors Bureau on Oct. 7 and reiterated his long-held opposition to a tax increase in the absence of the General Assembly’s enactment of cost-saving collective-bargaining reforms. Democrats in the General Assembly claim that Rauner’s proposed reforms would weaken the role of organized labor in Illinois.

While urging the General Assembly to act on his proposals, the governor incorporated a new line of argument in defending the idea, noting that “[r]eforming collective bargaining inside government is not a radical idea, and it is not a partisan idea.”

Rauner mentioned that the General Assembly and other Democrat-controlled legislatures have backed similar reforms before.

He cited examples of bipartisan collective-bargaining reform from Illinois and around the country, including Chicago Public Schools’, or CPS’, relief from state mandates regarding hiring janitorial services, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s success in getting the length of the CPS school day and school year removed from collective bargaining.

The budget stalemate has largely consisted of attempts to shift blame, with the governor consistently backing his reforms and Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan firing back with the term “extreme.”

Rauner’s focus on bipartisan collective-bargaining reforms should prompt Democrats to reconsider denigrating these proposals as “extreme.”

What about the current situation in Illinois is different from other scenarios under which legislatures have stood up to government-worker unions to make needed changes to laws? Why can’t these examples serve as a starting point for discussing feasible, bipartisan reform?

If Rauner’s reform requests have been more dramatic than in other cases, it may be due to the fact that Illinois faces an unprecedented fiscal crisis. But Rauner’s comments serve as a reminder that a discussion about collective-bargaining reform is not as “extreme” as Madigan and his loyalists want Illinoisans to believe.

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