SPRINGFIELD – Senator Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat and president pro tempore of the Illinois Senate, issued the following statement today reacting to the governor’s budget address to the General Assembly:

“I am alarmed that Gov. Rauner was no more prepared today to propose a balanced budget to the General Assembly than he was on this day in 2016 or in 2015.

“For nearly 200 years Illinois governors considered it a duty to set the spending priorities for the state and did their best to work with the legislature to be responsible to taxpayers – especially when times were tough. Not this governor. He considers it a political liability.

“Illinois is facing tough times now, and they’re getting tougher by the day because Gov. Rauner lacks the courage to do the job that 41 governors before him managed to do.

“The governor can continue to sit on the sidelines while my colleagues and I in the Senate do his job for him. We’ll craft a budget for the people of Illinois and save the state from financial ruin. All he has to do is stay out of our way, let us do his job and not make it more difficult for us.”

Category: News

Harmon02082017SPRINGFIELD – Senator Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat and president pro tempore of the Illinois Senate, issued the following statement regarding Wednesday’s movement toward a grand bargain budget deal:

“Governing is messy. So is negotiation. Yet, today we passed three good-government measures, negotiated by both parties, in our drive toward a budget grand compromise. Saying yes to government consolidation, procurement reform and financing relief for municipalities all in one day is no mean feat.

“Clearly, the Senate has more work to do on this bipartisan grand compromise of ours, but I cannot stress enough that time is of the essence. We need to pass the remaining components of the deal as soon as possible, because the fallout from the state’s fiscal crisis will continue to worsen.

“Every day, Gov. Bruce Rauner spends $11 million more than the state has available to spend. I hope he will stop his allies from opposing our compromise, engage in honest negotiations and begin to use his office to lead – not to interfere with the Senate’s efforts.”

Category: News

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HarmonLaborPresserSPRINGFIELD – Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) and a bipartisan group of Springfield lawmakers today called for renewed contract negotiations between Gov. Bruce Rauner and the union that represents 38,000 Illinois state workers.

Harmon noted his support of a measure that would have allowed interest arbitration in the event of an impasse between Rauner, whose anti-union sentiments are well documented, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

“Twice I passed a bill that would provide for interest arbitration. Twice the governor vetoed that bill, and twice the General Assembly failed to override the veto,” Harmon said. “The governor’s rationale at the time was that he was willing to stay at the bargaining table and negotiate a deal. That sentiment appears to have vanished.”

AFSCME – the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees – is the largest union representing state government employees. No contract negotiations between the Rauner administration and the union have occurred since Jan. 8, 2016, when the administration claimed the parties were at impasse.

More than 30 state lawmakers of both parties and both houses of the Legislature gathered for a news conference Wednesday to show their support for continued good-faith negotiations between the administration and union representatives to avert a labor disruption and bring about an acceptable compromise.

“I think it is critically important to the people of Illinois that we try to reach an agreement that is fair to everyone and enables us to continue to provide vital services,” Harmon said, adding that Gov. Rauner is not practicing what he preaches when he refuses to participate in negotiations.

“The governor is demanding that the legislative leaders join him at a bargaining table every day to discuss his agenda and its impact on our state budget,” Harmon said. “I would hope that he would hold himself to that same standard in negotiating with the union and return to the bargaining table immediately.”

Category: News

The following guest column by Senator Don Harmon was published in The (Springfield) State Journal-Register on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016.

 

As wealthy politicians clamor to cut benefits for workers who are injured and killed on the job, it's a fitting time to remember a mine accident a century ago that was so tragic it moved lawmakers to make Illinois a national leader on workers' compensation and workplace safety.

In 1909, the Cherry Mine in Bureau County employed 550 men and produced 1,500 tons of coal daily to fuel locomotives. Immigrant families flocked to Cherry for steady employment in what was considered one of the safest mines in the nation.

Cherry Mine Fan HouseDuring a Saturday shift on Nov. 13 that year, a kerosene torch dripped oil on a cart filled with hay. It smoldered unnoticed until a blaze erupted, trapping many of the workers in the bowels of the mine. In the end, 259 people died, leaving behind 500 fatherless children and 160 widows.

Donations poured in for the victims' grief-stricken families, and a settlement was reached with the railroad company. Each family received $1,800 for the loss of life and income.

Human error and problems with the mine's design contributed to the death toll. It remains one of the worst mining accidents in U.S. history.

Stunned lawmakers quickly acted to ensure better oversight of the industry, improve safety standards and establish a formal workers' compensation system, making Illinois a national leader. In 1911 it became the third state to establish a workers' compensation system; Maryland passed a law in 1902, and Wisconsin passed one earlier in 1911.

A state historical marker at the site today tells the tragic tale and notes Illinois' progressive response.

We should be proud of our record of supporting injured workers. Instead, wealthy politicians and corporate executives tell us the costs associated with workers' compensation are too high and thwart economic growth — even though we made significant changes to the system in 2011, saving employers hundreds of millions of dollars.

I am open to discussing further changes and learning more about the challenges companies face. We need them to invest in our state and its workforce.

But it infuriated me when I read a letter ("Illinois must reform workers' comp") in the Oct. 7 edition of The State Journal-Register by an Illinois Manufacturers' Association executive asking, "Is it fair that Illinois businesses pay $470,000 for an arm injury when the national average is only $170,000?"

Is it fair? I guess it depends on how much your arm is worth to you. What price do you place on playing catch with your kids or hugging your grandchildren? Are you willing to lose your house and life savings to pay the bills that stack up after your arm is mangled in a machine at work?

Workers need assurances, too. No-fault workers' compensation systems were established largely with the blessing of corporations that faced unlimited liability when sympathetic jurors were confronted with disfigured workers or grieving widows who had no choice but to sue in civil court. In exchange, states limited the liabilities companies face for workplace injuries and illnesses.

Now Gov. Bruce Rauner wants workers to give up more, even as federal officials have threatened intervention because states continue to scale back this important safety net at an alarming pace.

Further changes to workers' compensation in Illinois must strike a compassionate balance between the needs of injured workers and those of the companies we rely on for a vibrant economy. We should never forget how far we've come.

State Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, is president pro tempore of the Illinois Senate.

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Springfield, IL 62706
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Oak Park, IL 60302
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