William Katz:  Urgent Agenda






SALVAGE OPERATION? – AT 10:28 A.M. ET:  Are Democratic governors finally getting the message?  Despite all the ballyhoo about Barack Obama's famous victory several weeks ago, the fact remains that 30 of America's 50 state houses are controlled by Republicans.

One reason is that people look around and see that states run by Dem governors are sinking into the mud, and no state is sinking faster than Illinois.  Around Illinois are Republican-led states like Wisconsin and Indiana that are solving their problems.  But Illinois is one big Titanic.

Now, though, there is some sign of a bulb lighting up over Democratic Governor Pat Quinn's head.   He suddenly realizes that the people of his state see a major difference between traditional labor unions and public-service unions, and they don't much like the latter:

Gov. Pat Quinn Tuesday terminated the state’s contract covering members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union.

Calling the move unprecedented in the 40-year history of state employee labor contracts, AFSCME issued a statement saying the termination has “little immediate practical effect, as all existing terms and conditions of employment remain in place under state law.”

However, the action signals a further hardening of bargaining positions between the state and union that have dragged on for nearly a year.

“In 40 years of collective bargaining, Pat Quinn is the first and only Illinois governor to terminate a union contract,” AFSCME executive director Henry Bayer said in a statement. “His action will lower employee morale, provoke instability in the workplace and make settling a contract more difficult.”

The Quinn administration blamed the union for the protracted talks on a new contract.

“During 11 months of bargaining, the state has extended the contract three times and made significant efforts to compromise,” Quinn budget spokesman Abdon Pallasch said in a statement. “But the government employees union, which has not offered a single proposal to deal with retirement health care, continues to seek millions of dollars in pay hikes the taxpayers can’t afford to give them. It has refused to recognize the extraordinary financial crisis squeezing the state.”

COMMENT:  The question now is whether the Democratic Party of Illinois, run out of the Chicago machine precincts, will back Quinn, or knife him.  Many Illinoisans will certainly back him, but the reliable Dem voters in Illinois might vote to kick him out at the next primary, assuming he's eligible to run again. 

Quinn is trying to save his state.  He's trying to do, on a more modest scale, what Scott Walker has done in Wisconsin and Mitch Daniels has done in Indiana.  But those are Republican governors, who could count on the support of their party.  If I were Quinn, I'd hire a food taster and try on a bulletproof vest.

Businesses are leaving Illinois.  So are talented people.  I was educated in Illinois.  There's much good in the land of Lincoln.  But Lincoln probably couldn't get elected there today.

November 21, 2012