Social Services Lose Lawsuit Asking Judge To Force State Of Illinois To Pay Them

August 31, 2016
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, left, and his wife Diana Rauner, right, walk down a hallway leading to a meeting of the governor's Cabinet on Children and Youth Thursday, June 9, 2016, in Springfield.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, left, and his wife Diana Rauner, right, walk down a hallway leading to a meeting of the governor's Cabinet on Children and Youth Thursday, June 9, 2016, in Springfield.

Seth Perlman/Associated Press

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by nearly 100 social service providers who wanted the court to force payment on contracts with the state. Cook County Judge Rodolfo Garcia tossed the lawsuit after oral arguments Wednesday, saying the issue belongs in a higher court. 

The agencies asked the court to force the state to fully pay them for work they were contracted to do during the year-long budget impasse.

Some of those agencies served victims of sexual assault and people who are homeless. Illinois First Lady Diana Rauner is the president of Ounce of Prevention, which is also one of the organizations suing the state for reimbursement.

In court filings, attorneys for those social service organizations accused the state of “heartlessly” fighting against full reimbursement for work agencies had contracts to perform for the state.

Judge Garcia sided with attorneys for the state, who argued Illinois doesn't have to fully pay those agencies yet because a stopgap budget approved in June partially pays them what they're owed - although the state still has not paid out everything from that stopgap spending plan.

The state also argued those social service contracts had a clause saying any work done is subject to appropriation, meaning even though the stopgap budget does not pay social services everything they’re owed, the state hasn’t violated its contracts.

“The real problem we have is where would additional funding come from?” Judge Rodolfo asked during arguments Wednesday.

Rodolfo said by dismissing the case entirely, it allows the social services to quickly appeal his decision if they choose to.

Andrea Durbin, who leads the Illinois Collaboration on Youth, said she’s not sure how many groups will continue in the legal fight.

“This ruling calls into question the validity of any contract anyone has with the State of Illinois,” Durbin said.

Story source: Illinois Public Radio