By: Mark Glennon*
Governor Pritzker announced on Tuesday, his first full day in office, that he will grant regular, step pay increases to about 20,000 state workers. Those step pay increases, which are not merit based, had been hotly contested with certain public unions during the Rauner Administration, which refused to pay them.
But Pritzker declined to say what it would cost, so the cost hasn’t been reported.
Our sources close to the budget process say the cost will run about $200 million annually. That estimate is confirmed in a budget projection that showed it as a contingency, linked here, published earlier in connection with the current budget.
Conceivably, that annualized cost might run only until new labor contracts are negotiated and completed — if step increases are not included in new contracts. If so, and if the increases ran only through the end of this fiscal year on June 30, the cost would be limited to about $100 million.
But that’s unlikely. Since Pritzker unilaterally gave the concession away, there’s no reason to think it won’t continue. It was gratuitous — a mindless way to begin contract negotiations. In fact, Pritzker went out of his way to indicate he will go easy on the issue and in the negotiations in general. In a press conference Tuesday, when asked about the increases, he said, as reported by WTTW:
Look, I believe in collective bargaining rights. We’re obviously going to be entering into negotiations at some point in the near future to discuss wages going forward and all the other issues. But it’s very important for us to establish on day one that this is a very different kind of administration and we’re working on lifting up working families.
The cost is not included in the current budget, which will expire June 30, and is already badly out of balance, even using the state’s phony budget accounting.
The step pay increases announced today are not retroactive. They haven’t been provided since 2015. But Pritzker left the door open on whether back pay on them might be included in new contracts. That would cost another $400 million, as we earlier reported, also not in the current budget.
It’s outrageous that Pritzker and his staff would hide this cost from reporters who asked for it. His spokesman said they couldn’t provide it for “several weeks.”
Nonsense. They have easy access to a reasonable estimate. I got it easily.
Earlier in the day, Pritzker announced other initiatives he said would “usher in a renewed era of transparency among state agencies.” From his press release:
Good government starts with making the state accountable to its people…. Our state’s hardworking residents deserve to know how taxpayer money is being spent, and I will ensure that transparency is a core value of my administration. By shining a light on how the state is and isn’t living up to its responsibility to our citizens, we can start making real improvements in the lives of families across Illinois.
*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.