Judge Rules Against State A-G’s Motion To Halt State Worker Pay Due To Budget Impasse

February 16, 2017
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan makes her entrance before taking the oath of office as Illinois' Attorney General Monday, Jan. 12, 2015, in Springfield Ill.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan makes her entrance before taking the oath of office as Illinois' Attorney General Monday, Jan. 12, 2015, in Springfield Ill.

Seth Perlman/AP

A St. Clair County judge has denied state Attorney General Lisa Madigan's motion to halt state employee pay in the absence of a complete state budget. AFSCME Council 31, a union representing many state employees, says the union-led arguments against Madigan's motion argued that by agreeing to abide by court orders, Illnois legislators had appropriated funds to pay state employees.

Illinois has gone nearly 20 months without the governor and General Assembly coming together to create a full, balanced spending plan.

It means state employees will continue to be paid as legislators and the governor continue their fight over how to pay for Illinois government.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan said she will appeal the judge's ruling, noting the state's constitution requires an enacted appropriation for state spending.

"Under the current injunction, the state has spent over $3 billion in taxpayer money without any transparency or legislative debate as required by law." Madigan said in a statement. "The governor is using this injunction to avoid following the Constitution and enacting a budget, irreparably harming the people of Illinois."

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner had criticized Madigan's legal move, suggesting she wants to create a "crisis" that would shut down the government. Madigan is the daughter of Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Without a budget in place, social service agencies, higher education and other programs have suffered. Other spending has continued, however, because of court orders or state law. That has included employee pay.

Both Democrats and Republicans in the Illinois House say worker paychecks should continue and have introduced separate bills seeking to avert a government shutdown if Madigan's motion succeeded.

In this June 30, 2016 photo, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks to reporters in front of his office at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Ill. Rauner fought Attorney General Lisa Madigan's motion to stop state worker pay without a state budget.

Photo Credit: Seth Perlman/AP

Rauner said in a video message to state employees last week that he would veto the Democrat-backed plan, which would appropriate money for state agencies to continue paying employees through the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

The Republican plan wouldn't expire at the end of the fiscal year, but it puts the governor's office and state agencies in charge of deciding how much money employees receive — authority that Democrats are not willing to give.

Thursday's ruling was hailed by both Gov. Bruce Rauner and AFSCME.

“We’re pleased our hard working state employees, who show up to work every day on behalf of the people of Illinois, will continue to be paid", said the governor's General Counsel, Dennis Murashko, in a statement. "It is our hope the Attorney General drops this lawsuit so the bipartisan negotiations in the Senate can continue in order to reach a balanced budget with changes to get our state back on track.”

Rauner and the state's largest public-employee union have been at odds over a new contract, with the governor seeking millions in savings.

In another statement, AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said: “Through all state government’s chaos of the past two years, the people of Illinois have been able to rely on state workers to be there, providing important public services. This decision ensures that that commitment can continue.”

AFSCME Council 31 is holding a strike authorization vote to determine if members are willing to walk out. That vote, which started last month, continues through Sunday.

Story source: Illinois Public Radio