A bill that could put state contract negotiations in the hands of arbitrators might prevent a state workers’ strike, but at a potentially heavy cost to taxpayers.
Gov. Bruce Rauner is expected to veto legislation next week that could result in his removal from contract negotiations with some state workers unions. That would set the stage for lawmakers to attempt to override the veto.
State Rep. Robert Pritchard, R-Sycamore, said the costs of union contracts could go unchecked should the bill become law.
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“If you take the governor out of the picture, you don’t have anyone representing the taxpayers’ interest in these discussions,” Pritchard said. “Then you may end up with something that is going to be very onerous for the state.”
Pritchard said supporters of the bill like that it guarantees no lapse in state services. But he said the bill would pull only the current governor from the negotiating table, and that isn’t good government.
“If taking the governor out of a negotiating position is good policy, then it should apply to all governors,” Pritchard said.
Heritage Foundation labor expert Jim Sherk said binding arbitration typically results in union-friendly decisions.
“Governor Rauner has the ability, when negotiations hit an impasse, to impose his final offer,” Sherk said. “The unions would prefer that not happen, instead preferring what would likely be a more generous contract from arbitration.”
Lawmakers tried to pass similar legislation last fall, but could not muster the votes to override the governor’s veto.