The day after Gov Rauner delivered his FY 2018 Budget Address to the legislature, the Governor and state workers dodged a big bullet. To wit, a judge in St. Clair County ruled against Attorney General Lisa Madigan who had argued that the continued paying of state workers when there is no budget in place, was unconstitutional.
Although the state is now in its 20th month of operating without a budget, and state workers have been paid thoughout that time, many observers in the Capitol thought the Attorney-General was correct in her reading of the law, and that without a state budget in place, there was no “spending authority” to justify the issuance of paychecks to state workers.
However in the last half of 2016, there had been at least a spending bill passed by the legislature to fund state operations though the end of the year. And, it’s been said the Attorney-General had been waiting to see if the legislature and governor would reach a budget agreement. But after the lapse of the recent spending bill, and with no budget agreement seemingly near — Attorney-General Madigan filed to have state workers pay cut off.
While some thought she was correct, others saw her actions as a political maneuver to force a state government shutdown, and finally force Gov Rauner to accept a budget deal with the legislature, without his stated demands of what he needed before agreeing to sign a budget into law.
The state workers union, AFSCME Council 31, and Gov Rauner became strange bedfellows in opposing the Attorney-General’s effort to end state workers pay, until a state budget was approved.
And today, the St. Clair County Court agreed with them, that state workers’ paychecks should continue.
In a statement issued after the decision, the Attorney-General’s office released a statement saying they will appeal today’s decision.
“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.”