Judge: Without A Budget, State Employees Won't Get Salaries

Jul 7, 2015

A Cook County judge has ruled Illinois may not continue to pay
state workers in full during an ongoing budget impasse.
 
 Judge Diane Joan Larsen ruled Tuesday that Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger
may pay only some workers who are covered under a federal law. Those workers
would receive federal minimum wage plus overtime.
 
 But attorneys for Munger say it would take the state as long as a year to
determine which employees would be paid under federal law and how much.

 
 They say that effectively means no workers will be paid until Gov. Bruce Rauner
and Democrats who control the Legislature approve a budget.  
 
Attorney General Lisa Madigan had asked the judge to clarify what state
government is obligated to pay without an approved budget for the fiscal year
that started July 1.

------

Talk to Illinois' Attorney General, Lisa Madigan, a Democrat, and it sounds simple: without a budget, Illinois has lost much of its authority to spend money.

"In order for all employees to be paid their full amount of pay, a budget needs to be passed by the legislature and approved by the governor," she says.

But it's not that straightforward. Madigan says federal law requires certain state workers be paid the minimum wage, no matter what.

Republican Comptroller Leslie Munger says her office isn't prepared for that.

"Our state's antiquated computer systems and databases make that task very difficult," Munger says.

Similar reasoning led a court to allow Illinois to pay all state workers during a 2007 impasse, but it's unknown whether it'll be allowed again; Madigan says the situations aren't comparable.

It's a technical, legal matter, but partisan accusations mean it's now dripping with political overtones. Madigan says she filed the case in Cook County because most of her office's lawyers are based in Chicago, as is most of the state's population, but she says it could have been filed anywhere in Illinois.