State Contractors Sue For Payment, Again

Feb 9, 2017

A group of social service organizations are suing the state of Illinois over the budget impasse. They were contracted to do work on behalf of Illinois government — and now say they ought to be paid.

Illinois signs contracts with the organizations to take care of the state’s neediest people — like AIDS patients, drug addicts, and the homeless.

But with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democratic legislature failing to agree on a spending plan, those groups have been left in the lurch. This is the second time the "Pay Now Illinois' coalition has tried suing — the first case is on appeal in Chicago.

Andrea Durbin is with the Illinois Collaboration on Youth, and serves as a spokeswoman for the plaintiffs. She says the failure of Illinois to honor its contracts damages the credibility of state government.

"If we become known as a place that does not honor its contracts, that is not good for business, then that makes climbing out of that (fiscal) hole even worse," she says.

Illinois’ contracts with its vendors are “subject to appropriation,” meaning legislators have to specifically approve the money. But that has not stopped courts from ordering all kinds of other payments, from health care for the disabled to salaries for state workers.

Many of Illinois' social service organizations have borrowed money, ended programs and laid off staff.

“The damage that’s being done to us — I’ve heard it referred to as collateral damage, and I don’t believe that’s the case. I believe that we are the weapon," Durbin says.

Indeed, both Republicans and Democrats say they support social service programs. But Rauner says Illinois cannot afford them without becoming more friendly to business.

Then again, that hasn’t stopped him from entering into contracts he has no authority to pay.