NU Online News Service, July 16, 6:44 p.m. – Illinois Gov. George Ryan, a Republican, has vetoed S.B. 1859, a bill that would have given state employees who already have health insurance the right to “opt out” of the state-sponsored group health insurance program.

The Illinois chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees spearheaded the effort to pass the bill and argued it could help the state save at least $24 million a year in redundant health insurance premiums without hurting employees.

But Henry Bayer, executive director of AFSCME Council 31, also presented the bill as an attack on Ryan’s approach to state finances.

The Illinois AFSCME organization has been bitterly opposed to the layoffs, furloughs and other cost-cutting tactics Ryan has used to cope with the effects of the recession on Illinois tax revenue.

“The time for theatrics is over,” Bayer said in a statement in April, when the council unveiled S.B. 1859. “It’s time for the General Assembly to roll up its sleeves and refashion Governor Ryan’s disastrous budget.”

S.B. 1859, which was introduced by Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield, Ill., faced little opposition as it made its way through the state legislature. The bill passed 56-0 in the Senate and 115-0 in the House.

Ryan vetoed the bill without issuing a statement commenting on his reasons for doing so. Ryan’s office could not immediately be reached for comment.

The text of the bill is on the Web, at http://www100.state.il.us/government/getfulltext.cfm?txtBillNum=SB1859