(Updates with comment from Quinn in fifth paragraph.)
Oct. 3 (Bloomberg) -- An arbitrator ruled that Illinois Governor Pat Quinn’s budget-cutting proposal to dismiss more than 1,900 state workers and close seven facilities violates a collective-bargaining agreement with unions.
Arbitrator Edwin Benn wrote in a 40-page opinion that Quinn’s plan, unveiled Sept. 8, “is in violation of the clear language” of a 2010 cost-saving agreement between the state and Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees that guaranteed no job cuts or closings before July 1.
Quinn said that the budget lawmakers approved was insufficient to keep government operating through the end of the fiscal year June 30, and that the cuts would avert a shutdown. The closings included three psychiatric hospitals, two developmental centers, a prison and a juvenile-detention center.
“This order is unequivocal,” said union council Executive Director Henry Bayer in a prepared statement. “Governor Quinn should rescind all threatened layoffs and closures. Failure to do so will not only harm the vital public services state employees provide, it will expose the state to significant damages for lost wages, benefits and other costs incurred as a result of the governor’s irresponsible actions.”
Quinn defended the dismissals in a statement released from his office in Chicago, saying, “You can’t spend money you don’t have.”
“The actions taken by the administration last month are necessary to manage a budget that underfunded the operational and personnel lines in a number of state agencies,” Quinn said in the statement. “This ruling does not change the fact that the money to run all these facilities for the entire year was not appropriated by the General Assembly.”
The dismissals and closings weren’t to begin until next year.
Illinois lawmakers ended their spring session June 1 without paying an estimated $6.2 billion in overdue bills to vendors. Quinn had proposed borrowing to cover the backlog.
Lawmakers in January increased personal-income taxes by 67 percent and the corporate rate by 46 percent to eliminate half of a projected $13 billion deficit.
--Editors: Stephen Merelman, Ted Bunker
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