State employees in Illinois can breathe a sigh of relief; their wages aren’t going anywhere.
On Thursday afternoon, 20th Circuit Court Judge Robert LeChien ruled that workers will keep getting paid under a court order, even though the state budget stalemate continues.
This all started in 2015, when lawmakers first failed to pass a state budget. In St. Clair County, government workers sued the state, to ensure that they would keep getting paid, even without a budget. The workers won.
But now, 19 months later, Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a motion to dissolve that labor union victory. That would mean many state workers would go unpaid.
Madigan hoped this would force lawmakers to pass a budget. However, Judge LeChien didn’t feel the Attorney General’s argument had any legal merit. He sided with attorneys representing labor unions and the governor’s office, who argued that official budgetary appropriations are not required to spend state funds, and that the AG was injecting an arbitrary sense of urgency.
AFSCME labor union representative Carla Gillespie says, “The union is very disappointed that she would use – that anybody would use state employees as a political football, or as a pawn, to get this stuff done. There are serious consequences when people don’t get paid, and when state services may be disrupted.”
Still, this union of state workers, along with many Illinois Democrats, still blame Governor Bruce Rauner for the budget stalemate. Gillespie adds, “If he would come to an agreement with [lawmakers] without his preconditions, this would all be said and done and we wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not state services can continue, and state employees wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not they’ll get a paycheck.”
The Attorney General’s office expressed disappointment about the judge’s ruling. Spokesperson Maura Possley issued the following statement:
“We think the law is clear. The Illinois 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. The Governor is using this injunction to avoid following the Constitution and enacting a budget, irreparably harming the people of Illinois. We will appeal the court's order.”
Gov. Bruce Rauner's office released the following statement in response to the decision:
“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. 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.”