Don’t blame workers for state’s financial problems

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illinois_capitol.jpg

(AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

In an otherwise sensible endorsement of J.B. Pritzker for governor, the Sun-Times took an inexplicable and groundless swipe at public service workers. If Pritzker is elected, the Sun-Times says, he must “drive a harder bargain on future employee wages and pensions.”

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The clear implication that the state’s budget problems stem from state workers being overpaid is a frequent talking point of Gov. Bruce Rauner. It’s false. Here are the facts: State employees provide vital public services in every part of Illinois. They protect kids, care for veterans and people with disabilities, ensure safe prisons and do many other difficult and often dangerous jobs.

Despite doing such important work, Illinois state and local government employees earned 13.5 percent less than comparable private sector workers as of a 2013 University of Illinois study. Since then, state workers have received no pay increase in more than four years, due to Rauner’s refusal to negotiate with our union (and the failure to honor step plan progression for the lowest-paid workers, despite a court finding that his freeze is illegal).

The average pension benefit earned by state workers is modest — just $33,000 a year. For anyone hired since 2011 (roughly one-third of the workforce and growing) even that amount has already been reduced.

The Sun-Times says its mission is to “cover the stories and issues that matter most to Chicago’s working men and women.” If it wants to do so accurately, its editorial page shouldn’t make ill-informed attacks on those working men and women in the public service all across Illinois.

Mike Newman, deputy director, AFSCME Council 31

Failed miserably

Yes, Republicans cut taxes as promised; however, they have failed miserably to keep their promises to reduce budget deficits and the national debt. Instead of reducing deficits and debt, Republicans and President Trump are passing budgets with massive deficits and adding to the debt.

In the first two years of the Trump presidency, Republicans have approved budget deficits of about two trillion dollars. After all the years of claiming to be fiscally conservative, Republicans still fail to realize that reducing revenues and not spending is a formula for fiscal disaster.

Victor Darst,Huntley

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