Bad Day For Quinn On Electricity, Union Contracts
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Updated 10/25/11 – 5:30 p.m.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois lawmakers rebuked Gov. Pat Quinn on Tuesday as senators took a step toward overriding his veto on high-profile electricity legislation and House Speaker Michael Madigan criticized his no-layoff agreement with a major union.
The Senate voted 37-20 for legislation that would tweak a plan to let power companies raise rates so they can make improvements, including the creation of a high-tech “smart grid.” Approving the changes is meant to win over the extra votes needed to reverse Quinn’s veto of the underlying plan.
The Democratic governor has vigorously fought the proposal. Just hours before the Senate vote, he held a news conference to complain that the changes don’t make any substantial improvements in what he dubbed a “smart greed” bill.
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“There is no way to put perfume on this skunk, and that’s what it is,” Quinn said.
The changes, contained in what is known as a “trailer bill,” include lowering the profit rate guaranteed to utilities, toughening the performance standards they must meet and increasing the amount of money they must spend to improve basic infrastructure. If everyone who voted for the trailer bill supports the underlying plan when it comes up, Quinn’s veto would be overridden in the Senate.
The measure’s fate would then depend on the House, unfriendly territory for Quinn right now.
Madigan rose on the House floor Tuesday to deliver a stinging rebuke of his fellow Chicago Democrat — a resolution limiting the governor’s power in union contract negotiations and forbidding agreements that say state government cannot cut jobs.
Madigan said Quinn was wrong last year when he promised not to cut any jobs or close any state facilities in exchange for concessions from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Quinn is now moving to break that agreement by cutting nearly 2,000 jobs and close prisons and other state institutions. He is also canceling raises required under the union contract.
Quinn blames legislators, saying they did not give him enough money to run state government for a full year without making cuts. Lawmakers say he negotiated a generous deal with a politically powerful union without considering the financial implications.
Madigan implied Quinn and his aides — or “those people” — can’t be trusted to negotiate financially realistic contracts. Instead, lawmakers should play a role so that they don’t get any nasty surprises.
“We can stand on the sidelines, let those people go off and do what they do and send us a bill, or we can interject ourselves now and be present through the negotiations so that our position is known and understood as those people are bargaining,” Madigan said told fellow lawmakers.
Madigan said a House committee will determine an acceptable percentage for union raises in the next contract and then vote on the resolution before the Legislature adjourns its fall session next month. Senate President John Cullerton, D- Chicago, said he wants the two chambers to work together on the issue and he would review Madigan’s plan.
Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson called Madigan’s resolution “an interesting suggestion.”
AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall objected to Madigan “stirring resentment toward working people.”
A House committee voted to dip into local governments funds to restore the salaries of regional superintendents across Illinois. Quinn vetoed their pay months ago because he said state government should not bear the cost of their salaries when money is so tight.
And a Senate committee delayed action on a proposal to cut the tax burden on two Chicago-based financial exchanges that are threatening to move out of state. The legislation would require the companies — CME Group Inc. and CBOE Holdings Inc. — to pay taxes on only a fraction of the trades they handle.
Cullerton said he was waiting for feedback from Republicans, who have raised concerns about helping the Chicago businesses when other companies around Illinois want aid, too.
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