More and more lawmakers are expressing frustration with Gov. PAT QUINN and the way he operates. Some even compare Quinn with his unbeloved predecessor, ROD BLAGOJEVICH.

More and more lawmakers are expressing frustration with Gov. PAT QUINN and the way he operates. Some even compare Quinn with his unbeloved predecessor, ROD BLAGOJEVICH.

The frustration comes from a couple of areas. One is Quinn’s penchant for doing things seemingly without fully thinking through the consequences. A prime example is the regional school superintendent issue, where Quinn eliminated money for their salaries without any plan for how their duties, specified in state law, would be carried out.

Some lawmakers also believe Quinn is becoming more confrontational. Quinn unloaded on lawmakers a couple of weeks ago, suggesting their votes on the smart-grid bill were bought and paid for with utility company donations. Last week in Chicago, Quinn said he doesn’t have to be a pal with lawmakers.

Pals? Not necessarily. But as long as the legislature remains a branch of government, it’s probably a good idea to at least reach a working accommodation with them. If not, it’s going to be a very long three years until the next election.

*Quinn also raised hackles last week with comments on the gambling-expansion bill. After first signaling an interest in negotiating a bill with lawmakers, Quinn said, “I don’t think the word negotiate is appropriate.”

What is appropriate? The “my-way-or-the-highway” approach? That’s always successful in government.

*House Republicans raised the ante last week over state employee salaries.

They want to put a stipulation into a House resolution that union employees receive no raises until the state shows an operating surplus for two consecutive years. In addition, the state could not agree to pick up health insurance or pension payments for union employees in lieu of pay raises.

The Republicans are proposing this as an amendment to a resolution sponsored by House Speaker MICHAEL MADIGAN, D-Chicago, that would stipulate how much the General Assembly is willing to accept as wage and benefit increases for union employees.

For Madigan, this is not a new position. He has long chafed at the idea that governors negotiate union pay raises and then leave it up to state lawmakers to figure out how to pay for them.

Madigan said his resolution is designed to give lawmakers a voice in the negotiations. It sends a message that they’re not going to simply sit back and accept just any negotiated settlement.

The way it’s phrased, Madigan’s amendment still allows for wage and benefit increases. It would place limits on raises, but it wouldn’t tie them to the state making a profit. The Republican proposal, though, says no surplus, no raises.

Just how the Republican resolution would work out in reality would be interesting, to say the least. The resolution defines an operating surplus, but most people are familiar with the financial games lawmakers have played in the past. Usually, the idea is to make a budget appear balanced when it isn’t, but it could probably work the other way as well.

Then there’s the bill backlog. Theoretically, this year’s budget will spend less than the state takes in in taxes. But at the end of the year, it’s expected that several billion dollars’ worth of bills will still be waiting to be paid. So is there a surplus or not? If pay raises depend on the state being current with its bills, look out. At the current rate of payment, it will be years before that happens.

Finally, what happens when governments run surpluses? Usually, the call goes out to cut taxes, which often pushes them back in the red.
Just saying.

Doug Finke can be reached at 788-1527 or doug.finke@sj-r.com.