Illinois Supreme Court won’t hear state employee pay case immediately

Illinois Supreme Court won’t hear state employee pay case immediately

The Illinois Supreme Court refused to hear Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s request to stop state employees from getting paid until a budget is passed.

The Illinois Supreme Court will not immediately hear Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s case to stop paying state employees in the absence of a budget.

Madigan filed a motion with the St. Clair County Circuit Court Jan. 26 claiming that without a state budget, Illinois’ tens of thousands of state workers couldn’t lawfully be paid. The motion requested that the court dissolve its 2015 order that has allowed the state to pay its employees throughout Illinois’ budget impasse. When the circuit court refused her request, Madigan appealed directly to the Illinois Supreme Court, short-circuiting the usual appeals process.

The Illinois Supreme Court’s refusal to intervene at this point has not stopped the attorney general’s effort to shut down state government. Madigan’s office intends to appeal the case to the 5th District Appellate Court.

Madigan’s crusade to stop state worker paychecks has met with hostility on all sides. Gov. Bruce Rauner and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Illinois’ largest government-worker union, have both condemned Madigan’s efforts.

Lawmaker pay is shielded – by law – from this uncertainty. While some members of the Illinois House of Representatives are currently suing the Illinois comptroller’s office over a decision to delay legislator pay, the state is forced by statute ̶ not a court order ̶ to pay state representatives and senators, even during a budget impasse. House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton championed this measure, which passed in 2014 and was signed into law by then-Gov. Pat Quinn.

No other state employee or vendor enjoys this protection.

With continued talk of a potential “grand bargain” budget deal containing multiple tax hikes, the timing of Madigan’s lawsuit seems overtly political. A state government shutdown would ramp up pressure to pass a budget deal laden with tax hikes, in order for the state to continue providing services. The attorney general’s father, House Speaker Mike Madigan, has long supported raising taxes, and the hurried passage of a budget deal would be to his benefit.

Both the governor and the General Assembly have backed proposals to fund state worker pay. Rauner supports continuing state worker pay indefinitely without a budget, while Democrats have thrown their support behind a bill to keep paying state workers until June 30.

As Lisa Madigan takes her case to the 5th District Appellate Court, state workers should take note of how the attorney general is using their paychecks as a political bargaining chip in the budget process, while lawmaker pay remains guaranteed.

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