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This editorial appeared in the March 31, 2018, edition of the (Springfield) State Journal-Register:

Given that Illinois is beyond broke, we're more than a little curious as to where Gov. Bruce Rauner is going to come up with the money needed to provide step increases to unionized state workers.

The Rauner administration stopped awarding step increases in June 2015 when the state's old contract with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees expired. The union contended the old terms remained in effect until a new agreement was reached. The courts have sided with AFSCME, and the decision by the Illinois Supreme Court to not consider an appeal kicks the issue to the Illinois Labor Relations Board, which needs to figure out how the state will comply.

Rauner said last week there are savings ideas that could be implemented to generate the money needed to give the increases, but didn't get into specifics. He did mention tapping into a $350 million budget surplus to pay down the bill backlog, but that assumes passage of ideas that have been rejected by lawmakers. He also said there are other savings that could be implemented, but that he "didn't necessarily propose."

Granted, the task is made more difficult because it's unknown exactly how much money is needed to pay the increases owed to about 15,000 AFSCME members. One would hope Rauner had a contingency plan in place, given that it's never safe to bet that the courts will rule in your favor.

The earliest this is expected to go before the Illinois Relations Board is May. That gives the governor's office at least a month to come up with the dough. The state workers who get step increases are generally in the first seven to 10 years on the job, and have been waiting on a decision. The state needs to be ready to give them what they are owed as soon as possible.

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