NEWS

Governor: IDOT move not a Springfield snub

Ryan Keith

Gov. Rod Blagojevich insists his administration will do everything possible to limit the pain for employees affected by moving more than 100 state jobs from Springfield to southern Illinois.

In an interview Thursday with GateHouse News Service, Blagojevich promised that employees in the Illinois Department of Transportation traffic safety division who don’t want to uproot their lives won’t have to, and they’ll be taken care of.

That means they’ll get other state jobs at the same pay and benefits and with similar duties and location, he said.

“Nothing will change in terms of their quality of life, their income and their benefits or their commute to work, to varying degrees,” Blagojevich said. “They’ll be in the Springfield area, so they’ll be close to home, if they choose to stay here.”

The governor said he knows people in Springfield are upset with him over the IDOT move and for choosing not to uproot his family from Chicago and move to the Executive Mansion. But he said relocation of the state jobs to Harrisburg is not a snub of the capital city or retribution against political opponents.

“Criticism comes along with the territory, and if you can’t take the criticism, then do something else for a living,” Blagojevich said. “I’m just trying to do what I think is right for the whole state.”

And he added that more moves — including some difficult choices — are on the way.

The governor said $1.4 billion in budget cuts he made Wednesday could mean closing some state facilities, here and elsewhere. How that affects staffing levels and who and where it hits has yet to be determined, he said.

Blagojevich said his administration has fought hard to streamline the state’s payroll by not filling thousands of vacant jobs and resisting calls for political appointments.

“We’re not going out to just like cut jobs in state government. What we’ve been able to do is just allow things to naturally unfold and try to do more with less,” Blagojevich said.

He is eyeing more relocations like the one to Harrisburg, designed to bring jobs and development into a southern Illinois region in need of an economic boost.

The administration is trying to move a facility, which he wouldn’t name, from Chicago to Rockford, Blagojevich said. Other places in need, such as Chicago’s south suburbs, could see relocations from Chicago or Springfield to provide an economic benefit and put government closer to people in far-reaching parts of Illinois, he said.

Staff of the panel of lawmakers that’s reviewing the IDOT move to Harrisburg has questioned whether the possible economic benefits are being inflated by the administration. Lawmakers have said it doesn’t seem wise to simply move existing jobs from one part of Illinois to another. 

Blagojevich said any moves would be carefully thought out and employees will be treated properly.

“All of this is going to be done with the mind that we’re not interested in hurting the working people that are in the positions now,” Blagojevich said. “What you don’t want to do here is you help one family but you hurt another family.”

Ryan Keith can be reached at (217) 788-1518 or ryan.keith@sj-r.com.