A report posted online on December 27th, 2010 in the Chicago-based Southwest News Herald entitled “Organized Labor Battlefront Building In Illinois” offers a glimpse into what Democratic politicians in functionally bankrupt blue states are willing to consider. As author Rich Miller puts it, “The same unions that pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into Senate campaigns are now fighting the very people they helped reelect just a few short weeks ago.”

Here are some of the unprecedented measures proposed by Democratic state lawmakers in Illinois, bitterly opposed by unions, that have a serious chance of being passed on to Illinois Governor Pat Quinn for signature:

  • Trade and industrial unions are hoping to mitigate major damage from proposed workers compensation and Medicaid reforms.
  • The teachers unions are preparing scorched earth tactics for the House’s education reform bill, which they say will all but take away their right to strike, severely limit their collective bargaining powers and impose new state standards for firing or laying off teachers.
  • The union focus has lately turned toward a proposed constitutional amendment in the House for a so-called “Taxpayers Bill of Rights,” or TABOR, which would limit state spending to the previous year’s levels plus the average percentage increase (or decrease) of per capita personal income over the previous five years.
  • There were also big majorities for pension givebacks this year in both chambers.

Still standing between these reforms – being proposed by Democrats – is the Democratic Governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn, who has been seen as the “stopper” by the unions whose gigantic campaign contributions put him into office. But even Quinn, who has proposed a $15 billion bond issuance and tax increases in order to continue to fund public employee compensation and pensions, may sign this assortment of reform legislation in return for tax increases.

This model, genuine reform in exchange for higher taxes, is something to watch for in Illinois, along with California and the rest of the insolvent blue states. An more sustainable model, however, would have to include cuts to pay and benefits to unionized government workers.

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