Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner narrowly avoided a loss Wednesday when House lawmakers were unable to override his veto of a bill that would prevent communities from creating “right-to-work” zones that limit a union’s ability to collect fees from employees.
The override effort fell one vote short of the 71 needed after heavy lobbying from the governor. He was looking to keep Republicans united on an issue important to him after months of turmoil during which some GOP lawmakers split with him to enact a budget and tax hike and conservatives consider a primary challenge after his signature on an abortion rights law.
“The people of Illinois scored a victory today,” Rauner said in a statement, declaring that lawmakers “rejected efforts to close a door to job opportunity here.”
“Instead, courageous House lawmakers stood together to dump the old playbook and move forward to make Illinois more competitive,” Rauner said. “Local communities should be able to decide how best to compete for jobs and choose reforms that can make their economies stronger, help their businesses grow and give the freedom to individual workers to support a union at their own discretion.”
Democrats say they might try to override him again soon, though.
Sponsoring state Rep. Marty Moylan, D-Des Plaines, said he’d try again when lawmakers return to Springfield for the second half of their annual veto session in November. The Senate already voted to override the governor Tuesday.
Moylan noted that one Democratic lawmaker was absent, and he said he planned to offer a second bill that would remove criminal penalties for officials who violate the right-to-work ban. Republicans had raised concerns about charging local elected officials with a crime for proposing ideas they believe would benefit their communities.
Under the legislation, local towns and villages would be barred from enacting right-to-work measures, which prevent employers and unions from entering into agreements that require workers to either join a union or pay related fees. Rauner has long pushed for local communities to enact right-to-work laws as he’s been stymied from putting in place statewide restrictions on collective bargaining.
Democrats aligned with labor groups have opposed such efforts, and pushed a ban on local right-to-work zones after the village of Lincolnshire established a right-to-work ordinance in 2015. The local rule was later struck down by a federal district court, which ruled that only states have the power to enact such laws.
Rauner has said he hopes the case can reach the U.S. Supreme Court, which Democrats are hoping to blunt by passing the ban, arguing right-to-work laws are designed to weaken unions and push down wages for workers.
“We have to do everything we can to preserve the middle class,” Moylan said.
The override effort’s 70 votes was four more than when the legislation first passed the House in June. Four Republicans voted in favor, but most were unwilling to buck Rauner on the issue.
That wasn’t the case on a separate bill aimed at bringing more transparency to the state’s finances, with Republicans joining Democrats to reject Rauner’s veto of the measure 112-0.
Backed by Democratic Comptroller Susana Mendoza, the bill requires agencies under Rauner’s control to make monthly reports about the amount of bills that have yet to be sent to her office for payment. It also requires agencies to estimate the amount of interest penalties the state might be on the hook for because Illinois is behind on paying up.
Rauner said the legislation was an attempt by Mendoza to “micromanage” state agencies. Lawmakers, though, countered it was commonsense accounting that would help officials gain a better understanding of Illinois’ finances. After the House vote, the bill now heads to the Senate.
“Today is a great day for transparency in the state of Illinois,” Mendoza said after the vote. “I understand that our problems are really bad financially, but the only way to ever get to a position where we can fix the state’s financials and get us on better financial footing is to know the true extent of how bad our financials are.”
Earlier Wednesday, the Rauner administration went back to the bond market to sell another $4.5 billion worth of bonds on top of the $1.5 billion it borrowed last week to help pay down the state’s massive pile of unpaid bills.
The general obligation bonds sold Wednesday locked in the 3.5 percent interest rate that the state received in the earlier bond sale, the administration said. That’s a considerably lower borrowing cost than the 9 to 12 percent interest rate that accrues on old bills at the comptroller’s office. And it’s an improvement over the interest rate of just under 4.25 percent that the state got when it sold bonds in November 2016.
But with the state’s bill backlog standing at roughly $16.5 billion, borrowing $6 billion will only start to chip away at the problem.
The Rauner administration said the state also plans to return to the bond market later this year to sell $750 million worth of general obligation bonds to pay for capital projects.
Chicago Tribune’s Kim Geiger contributed from Chicago.
Article Photo: Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-Chicago, watches the Senate vote 42-13 to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of a bill that prohibits creation of local right-to-work areas Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017 at the Capitol in Springfield, Ill. The House failed to override Rauner’s veto on Wednesday. (Rich Saal/The State Journal-Regi / AP)