Tough choices for Quinn on casino, raises

July 5, 2011 5:52:56 AM PDT
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn faces mounting pressure to fix the state's budget woes.

He again heard calls to veto a bill that would expand gambling in the state, as well as criticism over his decision to eliminate raises for state workers.

Quinn says the state does not have enough money to honor agreements to give workers raises.

One way to get that money would be through expanding gambling, but that decision could come with its own cost.

In Des Plaines Monday, just before setting off on a Fourth of July parade, the governor signed a bill that makes it easier for citizens to put advisory referenda on the ballot, the sort of "power-to-the-people" initiative that Pat Quinn has long advocated.

However, that is an act without much controversy, compared to budget-driven issues that now dominate the legislative landscape.

"I'm really glad to be here in Des Plaines, in Illinois, the Land of Lincoln, on this day, the Fourth of July," said Quinn.

Quinn experienced the joys of the elected: great weather, a festive occasion, and friendly greetings in abundance. However, the governor has a lot of headaches to deal with too, and one of them, the state's unionized workers contend, is of his own making.

Approximately 30,000 state workers, from prison guards to health care workers, were supposed to get a raise Friday, after having time-deferred their previous two raises.

The governor said 'no'. Legislators did not put money in the budget for the raises, so for now, they will not happen.

"We have got to run the government, got to make sure it lasts for an entire fiscal year - all of the services that people need - and when the money was not provided for the pay raises, I had no choice," said Quinn.

The union leaders say there were choices, and that the governor chose to do what no other governor before him has ever done

"We're looking at all of our options, and we will exercise every available option, because this is such a serious threat not only to the pay increases of our members, but to collective bargaining generally," said Henry Bayer, executive director of AFSCME Council 31. "If an employer can simply unilaterally abrogate a contract, then collective bargaining doesn't have much meaning."

That means labor will probably bring legal action against Quinn, its longtime friend, as early as Tuesday.

While he wrestles with the labor dispute, Quinn has another issue on the radar screen: a bill that would dramatically expand gambling in Illinois.

Not far from the parade where Quinn walked Monday is the state's newest casino, two weeks from opening. So, in the area, the thought of slots at the airport and horse tracks is not welcome, and suburban mayors have told the governor as much.

"He had open ears," said Des Plaines Mayor Marty Moylan. "Didn't give us a commitment either way, but he listened, and we had the other mayors... of the other casino towns - a lot of them expressed that they were not too worried about a Chicago casino, but they're worried about the oversight."

"My job is to reform everything, and I'm not gonna let any bill that might bring us backward when it comes to reform and integrity hurt Illinois," said Quinn.

The bill advocating gaming expansion has not yet been sent to the governor's desk. Pat Quinn has not said what he is going to do, but has signaled that there are parts of the bill that are problematic, especially dealing with how such a large-scale expansion of gambling in Illinois, as the act proposes, could be properly policed.

Quinn is meeting this week with Aaron Jaffee, the state's gaming board chair. Jaffee has expressed major concerns with the gambling expansion act as it currently is written.


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