Illinois House Republicans say the House speaker has a good idea in getting lawmakers involved in state workers’ salaries and labor negotiations – and they want to go further.

Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) and one of his deputies are suggesting a wage freeze until the state can maintain a surplus for two consecutive years. “It’s a reasonable and respectful call on all of us involved in state government to do all that we can to pay our bills and to restore the financial health of this state,” says State Rep. David Leitch (R-Peoria). Leitch points out that lawmakers are taking furlough days, as some state workers are being forced to do.

Labor unions have a differing viewpoint. “The underlying concept here is that the problems with the state’s budget have been caused by … people who care for the disabled or the elderly; people who provide food stamps or keep our prisons safe,” says Anders Lindall, spokesman for AFSCME Council 31, the largest state employees’ union in Illinois. “That’s just not credible.”

Lindall says the real problem is on the revenue end, particularly with tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. Lindall says the employees AFSCME represent make about 5 percent of the state budget, and a 3 percent raise for those people amounts to 0.15 percent of the state budget.

Lawmakers return to Springfield to continue the fall Veto Session on Tuesday.

(Illinois Radio Network)