SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan today ordered the permanent layoff of 1,000 state employees in order to help bring the state’s budget into balance, having exhausted other alternatives to reduce spending.
The governor’s actions follow one final personal plea to the leaders of AFSCME, the largest state employee union, to renegotiate its labor contract as a way to prevent the permanent layoff of its members. Henry Bayer, executive director of AFSCME Council 31, refused the governor’s request.
“I always have said that layoffs are the final option in balancing the budget. We’ve been stymied in what we’ve tried to do to prevent layoffs. AFSCME has gone to court to stop our furlough program and our efforts to privatize food services at state prisons,” the Governor said. “I do not have the unilateral authority to raise taxes, as AFSCME has asked. I do not have the authority to spend state bond money on government operations, or to transfer money from one government account to another.”
Following procedures spelled out in the AFSCME contract, state agencies will begin the process today of laying off employees within the Department of Corrections and the Department of Human Services. The layoffs will take affect in April and May.
The round of layoffs initiated this week is intended to help balance the state’s current budget. Additional layoffs likely will be needed to balance the FY 2003 budget.
Late last year the governor ordered a one-day unpaid furlough for all 65,000 state employees under his control to save $8 million. While the governor, his cabinet, staff, many legislators and non-AFSCME state employees have taken a furlough day, AFSCME went to court for a temporary restraining order to stop the furloughs for its 45,000 members. That action negated any cost savings from the furlough plan.
In an attempt to save about $20 million, the governor ordered Corrections to turn over food service operations in all state prisons to private contractors. Private companies have operated food services in some of the state’s maximum-security prisons for about 20 years. AFSCME again went to court to stop this proposal, wiping out any savings.
Over the last year, the Illinois economy has been weakened by a national recession that grew worse following the terrorist attacks of September 11th. State tax revenues declined sharply as a result. The Governor and General Assembly must deal with a revenue shortfall of more than $1 billion in order to balance the budget.
More than 40 other states have had to cut their budgets since September 11th because the recession and the terrorist attacks significantly reduced tax collections.
In October, the Governor cut $460 million in order to keep the state budget in balance. In February, the governor proposed another $680 million in reductions. However, state tax collections continue to miss projections and the short-term impact of the new federal economic stimulus package will require further changes in the budget.
“Involuntary layoffs of thousands of AFSCME members could be avoided if the union leadership would listen to rank-and-file members and negotiate reasonable changes in the current contract,” Ryan added. “AFSCME leaders in Iowa, faced with similar budget problems, negotiated a wage freeze this year that saved 800 jobs.”