BRAD WEISENSTEIN: While Pritzker Rewards His Allies, Taxpayers Foot The Bill

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BRAD WEISENSTEIN: While Pritzker Rewards His Allies, Taxpayers Foot The Bill


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“Illinois is a pro-worker state—and when it comes to workers’ rights, my administration is committed to ensuring that every Illinoisan has access to good-paying opportunities,” said Gov. J.B. Pritzker after inking a new deal with the state’s largest public employees union.

Trouble is, this friend of the working man has a pretty narrow definition. The workers he is concerned with are government union employees. He’s less friendly to the rest of us workers who get to pay for his largesse.

The new contract reached with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 hands state workers 19.28% raises and a $1,200 stipend for a grand total of $625 million in additional costs over four years. Read Pritzker’s statement on the deal, and he claims the raises are only 17.95%. Read the union’s statement touting the deal to members, and the 19.28% number is in there.

Pritzker doesn’t include the compounding effect of the raises over the four years – he’s just adding the annual percentages, which is plain misleading. Compounding matters, because small amounts get very large over time, and are exactly why Illinois’ public pension debt grew to the nation’s largest at $140 billion thanks to payments being shorted and pensioners’ 3% annual raises being compounded – raises not just on the initial amount but raises atop raises, year after year.

Here’s an example: Jane Doe makes $100,000 at the start of the AFSCME contract, but just adding the annual percentages takes her to $117,950. Raises on the increased amounts each year means she’ll really get $119,280 – an extra $1,330 thanks to compounding.

But math doesn’t play well in a press release. Keeping those raises sounding as small as possible does.

Pritzker also fails to point out the $1,200 stipend every worker will get, or why they are getting them. So why are they getting them? Will every state contract be expected to hand over money for nothing? Pritzker said there are 35,000 state employees represented by AFSCME, which means those stipends will cost the rest of us workers $42 million.

Pritzker handed a $2,500 stipend to AFSCME workers when he gave them a contract soon after taking office in 2019 – a deal that cost $3.6 billion more than it needed to, according to an Illinois Policy Institute analysis. The stipends were for the “hardships” they suffered working for the state under former Gov. Bruce Rauner. Rauner was fighting them on costs, mainly state employees receiving platinum health insurance coverage most of us can’t get and at little cost to the employees.

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By the way, this new contract has no increase in employee health insurance costs for the first year and very little after that. Maybe that’s because those costs aren’t rising? Hmmm.

And no estimates for the cost of increased paternity leave or for additional hiring the contract dictates.

So, take the 2019 Pritzker deal and add this new Pritzker deal, and he’s handed 33.6% in raises to state workers. Costs beyond raises are unknown. He hands. We pay.

The problem here is public employee unions have a lot of cash and too much sway in Illinois – AFSCME only spent 21% of its money on representing workers in 2022, with the rest going to politics and other union priorities and costs. Pritzker was elected not to be a friend of the state unions, but to be the champion of taxpayers. We taxpayers expect him to control what government costs us.

A true friend of the working man doesn’t toss out $1,200 checks like Oprah does cars.

Brad Weisenstein is managing editor for the Illinois Policy Institute, a non-partisan public policy research organization that fosters free-market solutions.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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All content created by the Daily Caller News Foundation, an independent and nonpartisan newswire service, is available without charge to any legitimate news publisher that can provide a large audience. All republished articles must include our logo, our reporter’s byline and their DCNF affiliation. For any questions about our guidelines or partnering with us, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

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