Governor Bruce Rauner’s plans to tackle the state's budget crisis have been transparent and consistent since taking office this past January. He has vowed to turn Illinois around with rational reforms that aim to grow our economy and set the course for a more sustainable and promising future for all Illinoisans.

He was elected to make tough decisions that past and current leadership in Springfield have failed to make. These decisions will break the status quo and the costly practices that have been unfair to hardworking middle-class families for over a decade.

To say that Governor Rauner is holding his reforms as “ransom” is disingenuous to Illinois taxpayers. He has been in office for nine months and has been tasked to fix over a decade of mismanaged finances, all while being waylaid by House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton. Both of whom have been elected politicians in Springfield for a combined 80 years.  

This means a lot of change has been thrown at different areas in respect to reforming Illinois. People who are familiar with a particular process may have trouble adjusting and understanding the long-term goals of the governor’s reforms.  

In response to “Prevailing wage a good deal for workers and taxpayers,” as seen in the Rockford Register Star on September 6, 2015, Illinois sets minimum “prevailing wages” for workers on state and local construction projects. These prevailing wages are significantly more than minimum wages. Over the years, prevailing wages have generally been set to match the union scale, even though a majority of construction workers in Illinois are not part of a union.

In addition, Illinois law permits, but does not require, the use of Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) for construction projects. A PLA is negotiated by the state and unions before the project is awarded to a private contractor.

The private contractor is then forced to comply with the terms negotiated by the state and the unions, which increases cost. While not mandatory, the state has been increasingly prone to attach union-only PLAs to construction projects.

Estimates show that mandatory PLAs can drive up the cost of a project by roughly at least 18 percent, with prevailing wage requirements having a similar effect. The requirement to pay prevailing wage is a concern to many municipalities. The City of Elgin in 2012 requested estimates on an environmental public works project (that was eventually delayed) and expressly sought estimates for the cost with and without prevailing wage rates. The estimate with the prevailing wage rate ($910,000) came back $510,000 higher than the estimate without the prevailing wage rate ($400,000); that means the community would have been obligated to pay 227% more to meet prevailing wage rates.

Governor Rauner’s proposed reform would allow Home-Rule local governments the ability to determine local prevailing wages, a local prevailing wage would not apply to a state-funded project (but a federal prevailing wage would continue to apply, if the project is federally funded). The reform would also prohibit the use of PLAs for state-funded projects, except when required by federal law.

Rockford has one of the highest property taxes in the nation.  The state of Illinois has a growing budget deficit making college funding appropriations unknown. In addition, the Rockford area has lost population, and enrollment at Rock Valley College (RVC) has dropped.

Nine month RVC faculty members earn a base salary on average of $66,000 (which does not include extra duty pay or summer pay) and have a generous Cadillac health insurance plan. They now want more, a lot more at taxpayer expense.

RVC Faculty Union recently turned down a Federal Mediator (a neutral third party) proposal that would have ended the strike and returned college students back to their classroom.   The decision was disappointing and is proof that the taxpayers of Winnebago, Boone and McHenry counties need our support now more than ever.

The Federal Mediator’s proposed agreement increased salaries by $4 million over five years and required an increased insurance premium from 17.5% of cost to 25% for the life of the entire five-year contract. The agreement would have raised faculty salaries by $1,000 in the first two years and more than $2,500 in the final year of the agreement.

Again, property taxes are high, enrollment is down and state funding is likely to decrease. At a time when common sense should prevail, “Why should taxpayers provide any raise at all?”

I recently saw a social media post from a part-time instructor at RVC. He is out of work due to the strike and presented an interesting perspective.  He indicated that as a part time faculty member, his classes are often dropped or taken from him and given to full-time faculty to meet their union contract requirements. As a part-time instructor he is not eligible for the same health insurance package as the full-time faculty and, like many Americans, his health insurance premiums skyrocketed after the implementation of Obamacare. The individual health-insurance plan he pays for through the marketplace has a $6,000 deductible and costs $180 a month. Current faculty health insurance for an individual plan is a $750 deductible and costs $100 a month.

The Board of Trustees of Rock Valley College should know that the taxpayers support their efforts to provide fair salaries and benefits to the Faculty while at the same time being mindful of the dwindling tax dollars in the region. I encourage the RVC Faculty Union to be supportive of our students, their education and to take into account financial realities.

State Representative Joe Sosnowski (R-Rockford) thanks Enbridge Energy for meeting with local Fire, EMS and elected officials in his district. The group met to answer questions and toured the facility.

State Representative Joe Sosnowski (R-Rockford) had the opportunity to tour and meet with staff at Heritage Woods, an assisted living community in Rockford.

Rep. Sosnowski talked with residents and facility employees about current issues and gave an update on what has been happening in Springfield.