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Tentative agreement reached with Illinois state union workers

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(The Center Square) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker says he has reached a tentative agreement with the state’s largest union regarding their new contract with the state. However, the taxpayer cost has yet to be revealed, leading some to expect increased taxes as a result.

Illinois has a contract with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, the union that supports a majority of the state’s workers. That contract expired at the end of June with the start of the new fiscal year.

On Wednesday, Pritzker announced that a tentative deal had been reached among negotiators.

“I’m pleased that a tentative agreement has been reached, and of course, it has been a friendly negotiation in the sense that we knew on both sides that we needed to reach an agreement, and it was reached roughly on time,” Pritzker said.

The deal with AFSCME leaves both parties satisfied, he said.

“We have great state workers in the state of Illinois, and they do terrific work for the people of Illinois,” Pritzker said. “It’s important that we reached an agreement and one that is mutually satisfactory, both for the state workers and the taxpayers of Illinois.”

Pritzker didn’t reveal how much more the contract will cost taxpayers. The unknown costs have led some to question the financial burden on the budget.

Last year, voters approved an amendment to the Illinois Constitution which codified collective bargaining rights in the state. The language of the amendment says, “No law shall be passed that interferes with, negates, or diminishes the right of employees to organize and bargain collectively over their wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment and workplace safety, including 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.”

Mailee Smith of the Illinois Policy Institute told The Center Square that taxpayers should be worried about contract costs following approval of the amendment.

“With Amendment 1 now in our constitution, the [costs] could be virtually anything,” Smith said. “I think there is a need for definite concern with whatever can come out of this contract because AFSCME leadership can now demand virtually anything.”

AFSCME supported Pritzker during his 2022 campaign, which Smith said gave Pritzker pressure to support that union.

“Government unions in Illinois are heavy political players and particularly fund Democrat lawmakers and officials with their millions of dollars in political donations,” Smith said. “That in essence leaves taxpayers without representation at the table.”

During the spring legislative session, state Rep. Charlie Meier, R-Okawville, told The Center Square that there is no way to prepare for the final cost and that if the contract is not fully funded in the 2024 budget, Democrats could offer a new tax on residents.

“I’m still afraid this budget will have holes when it gets later into the year, and then you will hear the talk right after the first of the year that we are going to have to put the progressive income tax back on the ballot,” Meier said.

The Illinois Constitution requires a flat income tax. The progressive income tax proposal in 2020 would have brought a tiered income tax structure with increased taxes on higher-income earners, but voters rejected the idea.

The new contract with AFSCME could cost an extra $300 million when finally settled, according to some lawmakers. In 2022, the Illinois Comptroller’s salary database shows all employees combined were paid over $6 billion. That’s more than $200 million more than the $5.8 billion paid in 2021.

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