Editorial: Give Rauner Room to Do What He Was Elected to Do

Editor's note: This is an editorial written by Reboot Illinois' Matt Dietrich and Madeleine Doubek.

Despite what House Speaker Michael Madigan believes, Bruce Rauner really did win the election last November. And however you feel about the anti-union vigor the new governor has brought to the job since then, one thing is undeniable: Rauner was elected to bring fiscal order to a government defined by financial chaos.

He can't do that if the General Assembly takes him out of one of the biggest responsibilities of the governor's office: negotiating the labor contract with the union that represents 38,000 state employees. That's exactly what will happen if the General Assembly overrides Rauner's veto of Senate Bill 1229, which swiftly would move stalled talks between Rauner and AFSCME Council 31 to an arbitrator.

We can't verify Rauner's claim that this is the "worst bill in state history," but we have no doubt that enacting it would be a very bad move so early in both this negotiation (AFSCME's contract expired June 30) and in Rauner's term (the bill expires in 2019, and clearly is aimed at shielding AFSCME from Rauner for the duration of his term).

We've been critical of Rauner's anti-union agenda to the extent that it has precipitated the current state budget impasse, which could portend very bad things to come for the state. That doesn't mean we support a panicked evacuation of the governor from what we believe is the greatest mandate he earned on Nov. 4 -- giving taxpayers a voice in the cost of government they fund.

Ostensibly, the bill is intended to prevent AFSCME members striking or being locked out by the administration in the event that contract negotiations become deadlocked. But Rauner has said all along that he will not lock out workers.

"I have stated publicly and I also pledge in writing to you that we will not lock-out state employees," Rauner said Tuesday in a letter sent to all members of the General Assembly. Breaking that pledge now would irreparably damage Rauner's credibility and usher in a period of unprecedented chaos to state government that would undermine his administration.

Yes, Rauner is making unprecedented demands of the union in these talks. It also happens that Illinois is in a period of unprecedented financial trouble.

Read the rest at Reboot Illinois.

Aug. 19 is the last day that the Illinois Senate can vote to override Rauner's veto on that union contract negotiation bill. It also happens to be the first time since 2002 that a Republican governor will host the Illinois State Fair's Governor's Day. Check out Reboot Illinois to see how the politics of the two situations could clash.