Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner can’t make up his mind about how to pay state workers. Last Thursday, he told business students at the University of Chicago that salaries for state workers were too high, and were part of the problem with Illinois’ budget woes. Then, on Friday, when asked about the $100,000 price tag for a chief of staff to oversee a staff his wife doesn’t have, he said something entirely different.
The Chicago Tribune reported that Rauner specifically said:
We’re going to pay what we need to bring in talented people. The reality is, the folks coming on our team are willing to take pretty big salary cuts to what they’ve been making because they want to be public servants to give back and help the people of Illinois.
It sounds like Rauner is implying he’ll pay whatever he has to for the people who work directly for him (and his wife), so that he can have the best there is. So he knows that you get what you pay for when it comes to employees, which is something every businessman ought to know. But on the other hand, he’s looking for ways to cut the pay of other state positions, which means not attracting the top talent. Which is it, Governor Flip-Flop?
To be sure, there are a few state positions that have rather high pay when compared to their private-sector equivalents (you do have to ask, though, what’s the point of having a job at all if you can’t support yourself with it? Nobody who champions pay cuts and low wages ever asks that question.). However, Rauner’s complaint has centered more around the idea that the average salary for state workers is too high than it has the idea that specific positions have too high a price tag. He uses Illinois’ neighboring states as a benchmark for where Illinois workers’ salaries ought to be.
However, cost of living is considerably lower in neighboring states than it is in a city like Chicago, where the bulk of the state’s population lives. Compare Illinois’ state salaries to those of other metropolitan states, like California, New York, and Massachusetts, and the picture looks a little bit different, according to a 2013 op-ed on NBC Chicago.
That op-ed also correctly pointed out that the idea of cutting people’s pay would resonate a little bit better if it weren’t coming from a wealthy venture capitalist. It’s easy to call for austerity, and to ask people to make sacrifices, when you yourself do not have to do it.
When a governor (or a president, or any other lawmaker) wants to cut spending, workers’ salaries should be among the last things to get cut, especially considering how much the lawmakers themselves make, and how many of them are rich enough to not feel the squeeze that comes with a pay cut. Or they could cut their own pay considerably, first, and then ask everyone else to take a pay cut. Governor Wealthy Hypocrite is no different from any other Republican on this issue.