Gov. J.B. Pritzker is scheduled to outline his budget plan on Wednesday for the fiscal year that starts July 1. It should include sacrifice from the nearly 40,000 state workers whose jobs have not been at risk like millions in the private sector and who got generous pay raises, funded by taxpayers, during the pandemic when Illinois’ unemployment soared to 16%. It is high time the state’s unionized workforce be part of the “shared sacrifice” our politicians so often expect of the private sector workforce.
While sectors of the state workforce have been extra busy due to COVID-19’s strain on unemployment benefits and health care systems, many state offices and agencies have been closed, services backlogged and workers learning to perform their jobs from home. Taking unpaid furlough days should not be a big “ask” compared with what the private sector has endured under Pritzker’s shutdown orders — restaurants, hotels, convention business, sports and marketing jobs — entire industries sidelined and in some cases, wiped out.
Other blue state governors confronted their unionized workforces months ago and showed leadership in doing so. Democratic governors in Wisconsin, California and New York cut public sector pay, instituted across-the-board spending cuts throughout state government, froze hiring and scheduled raises, and prepared for what would become a nearly yearslong economic slump due to COVID-19. They did it to protect all taxpayers.
Author(s): Editorial board
Publication Date: 15 February 2021
Publication Site: Chicago Tribune