Gov. Bruce Rauner insists a partial shutdown of state government is not the goal of his standoffs with Democratic lawmakers and labor unions. Both the fiscal year and the contract with the state’s largest public employee union end on June 30, but Rauner says closing state agencies and having public workers stay home isn’t in anyone’s best interest. He still believes deals will be worked out on both fronts by that date.
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“We will be working hard to make sure that we’ve got a balanced budget and we get structural reform, and to speculate about anything else right now I think is just premature,” Rauner said. Rauner says unions have a “misinterpretation” of his position if they think he wants a shutdown, though he does want changes in the contract with the American Federation of Municipal, State, and Federal Employees, such as overtime pay not counting in the calculation of a worker’s pension. While the battle over next year’s budget continues, Rauner has announced more steps to “manage the state’s finances” given the budget lawmakers passed which is short $4 billion. Those actions include delaying bill payments, freezing non-transportation capital projects, and suspending funding to a wide variety of recipients, ranging from county fairs to training for firefighters. These steps also reintroduce programs which were briefly cut off by the so-called “Good Friday cuts” earlier this year, such as the state’s Tobacco Quitline and immigrant services programs.