Court denies Madigan petition to stop state worker pay

Court denies Madigan petition to stop state worker pay

Lisa Madigan lost the first round in her quest to stop state worker pay during Illinois’ budget impasse. But that doesn’t mean the matter is settled. The attorney general could take this issue all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court.

A St. Clair County Court judge ruled Feb. 16 against Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s request to stop state worker pay during the budget impasse. Madigan took Illinois by surprise Jan. 26 when she filed a petition seeking court approval to stop paying state employees.

But as with other matters rife with political implications in Illinois, there will be a lot more to come. The court’s decision doesn’t settle the matter. Madigan can appeal all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court.

The legal background

In 2015, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees sought a court order to ensure state employees would keep getting paid during the budget impasse. St. Clair County Circuit Court Judge Robert LeChien complied, and since then, state employees have been paid under that court order.

But in the meantime, the Illinois Supreme Court issued a decision holding that the state could not pay AFSCME workers raises promised by former Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration because the General Assembly had not appropriated funding for this. The court specifically tied its decision to pay promised to state workers through collective bargaining.

Madigan pointed to that Supreme Court decision and asked LeChien to reverse course in the AFSCME case. She argued that because the General Assembly has not appropriated funds for state worker pay, the state can’t pay.

Unlikely allies

Madigan’s petition created an unlikely situation in which AFSCME and Gov. Bruce Rauner are arguing on the same side. Both opposed Madigan’s petition and vowed to fight against an order stopping state worker pay.

It also created an interesting schism between Madigan and AFSCME, two parties that traditionally are allies in state worker matters.

What’s next

Madigan can accept Judge LeChien’s decision and drop her petition or she can appeal the decision all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court. And with one decision already on the books denying state worker pay that has not been appropriated, the court may side with the attorney general. On other hand, Madigan is asking the court to deny pay to all state workers, which arguably goes beyond the scope of the Supreme Court’s original decision. That decision focused on collectively bargaining, but not all state workers are covered by collective bargaining agreements.

In the meantime, the General Assembly doesn’t need to rush into a bad budget deal to avoid a government shutdown. Lawmakers can pass an appropriations measure to fund state worker pay without a full budget.

In response to Madigan’s petition, at least two state representatives – Avery Bourne, R-Raymond, and Sue Scherer, D-Decatur – introduced bills that would ensure state workers get paid even during the budget impasse. Both bills – House Bill 1787 and House Bill 1798 – remain pending in the Illinois House of Representatives.

A continuing appropriations measure for state worker pay would not be unprecedented. In 2015 and 2016, the General Assembly passed an education appropriations measure that would keep K-12 schools open and operating during the budget impasse. In 2015, Rauner expressed support for a continuing appropriations measure for state worker pay.

Throughout Illinois’ budget gridlock, politicians have been immune to worries about their pay. In 2014, the General Assembly passed a law ensuring that legislator salaries are funded.

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