By CARL GREEN
Belleville, IL – Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan may not have the solution to the state’s budget stand-off, but she has given two of the state’s most fervent opponents something they can agree on.
Madigan in late January filed a lawsuit to end a St. Clair County court decision that has allowed salary payments to state employees without a budget, saying the payments have eased pressure to resolve the budget fight and that an Illinois Supreme Court ruling removed the injunction’s legal basis.
Madigan said ending the payments would force the government to solve its seemingly endless budget deadlock, which would help causes going unfunded now, such as social services and state universities.
It would also help suppliers and service providers who haven’t been getting paid, she said.
Nobody is more opposed to ending the injunction than AFSCME Council 31, the union that represents some 30,000 state employees who would be thrown out of work if the injunction ends without a budget approval.
But in addition, Governor Bruce Rauner and his Republicans in the Legislature are using Madigan’s filing to attack her for “playing politics” with state employees.
In fact, both groups – normally bitter enemies – have come out swinging against Madigan’s court case.
EMPLOYEES ON THE JOB
Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch issued this response. “Despite all the chaos in state government in the past two years, the people of Illinois have been able to count on state employees being on the job to serve them. The last thing Illinois needs is the further instability that blocking state payroll could cause.”
Republican Party spokesman Steven Yaffe used the occasion to remind anyone who wasn’t already aware of it that Lisa Madigan’s father is House Speaker Mike Madigan, Rauner’s strongest foe and unions’ greatest ally in the budget wars.
“While serious bipartisan negotiations have accelerated in the Senate, it is outrageous that Lisa Madigan decided to put Speaker Madigan’s power politics ahead of hard-working families in an effort to shut down state government,” Yaffe said. “Only a Madigan would try to disrupt bipartisan momentum in a matter that threatens to cripple government services and hurt state workers and their families.”
Despite Yaffe’s sentiments, Rauner has not yet signed on as a supporter of the budget plan being negotiated in the Senate. Rauner continues to demand measures to weaken unions and workers’ rights in any budget agreement.
Said Lynch: “Governor Rauner created this hostage situation by refusing to enact a fully funded budget unless his unrelated personal demands were enacted first. He should put aside those demands and do his job to work toward a budget without preconditions.
“Even so, we are shocked and extremely disappointed that the Attorney General would take this action. It is fundamental that everyone who works must be paid on time and in full, but this filing throws that basic commitment into question for state employees.”
BILL WOULD ENSURE PAYMENT
Democratic state Representative Sue Scherer has filed a bill, HB1798, to ensure that state employee payroll continues.
“We hope to prevail in court, where we think we have a strong case, but Rep. Scherer’s bill can provide an important backstop from the General Assembly,” Council 31 Legislative Director Joanna Webb-Gauvin said. “The legislature should pass and the governor should sign this bill as soon as possible.”
Lisa Madigan issued this statement to explain her actions:
“Like everyone else in this state, I have long hoped that the Legislature and the Governor would pass and enact a budget. Unfortunately, that has not occurred, and an order by the St. Clair County Court has removed much of the urgency for the Legislature and the Governor to act on a budget.
“However, during this long impasse, the Illinois Supreme Court overruled the sole legal basis for the St. Clair County Court's order to allow state operations to continue without an appropriation,” she added.
“With a new legislative session now under way, this is an appropriate time to ask the Circuit Court to reconsider this order in light of the changes in the law.”
MENDOZA: BLAME RAUNER
Newly elected Comptroller Susana Mendoza would be faced with carrying out the decision, but she preferred to blame Rauner for perpetuating the budget crisis than Lisa Madigan for the filing.
“Had Governor Rauner met his constitutional duty to propose a balanced budget in 2015 or 2016, we would not be facing a scenario where the livelihoods of our frontline employees could be threatened in this way,” Mendoza said.
“Due to Governor Rauner's abdication of his constitutional executive duties, our state finances continue to be managed almost wholly by court orders and judges’ edicts. It’s shameful that under his administration, the fifth largest state in the country is forced to operate like a bankrupt business.”
Mendoza added: “We do not welcome the prospect of state employees going unpaid. I, like my fellow lawmakers, have been going without a paycheck. The last thing I want is for state employees to join me. I can tell you first-hand how hard I see my employees work. They do not deserve to be used as pawns in a manufactured budget impasse. That said, I will abide by all court rulings as Attorney General Madigan pursues this court action.”
Illinois has gone without a budget since July 1, 2015 – the longest any state has gone without a budget since World War II.