Judge orders Illinois to continue to pay state workers

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By Sue Britt | BELLEVILLE, Ill.

BELLEVILLE, Ill. Illinois state workers will
continue to be paid even though a state budget is not in place
after a judge on Thursday refused to rescind his previous order
requiring payments.

St. Clair County Circuit Court Judge Robert LeChien rejected
a request by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to lift his
July 2015 order requiring state workers to be paid during the
state’s record nearly 20-month budget impasse. Madigan, a
Democrat, made the request last month in hopes of putting
pressure on lawmakers to pass a spending plan.

The attorney general will appeal the ruling, according to
Madigan spokeswoman Maura Possley.

“The Illinois Constitution requires an enacted appropriation
for state spending,” Possley said in a statement. “Under the
current injunction, the state has spent over $3 billion in
taxpayer money without any transparency or legislative debate as
required by law.”

Illinois is limping through a record-setting second
consecutive fiscal year without a complete budget due to an
ongoing feud between Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and
Democrats who control the legislature. A six-month fiscal 2017
budget expired on Dec. 31.

During a two-hour hearing, a lawyer representing the
American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees
Council 31 and the Illinois Federation of Teachers, which
opposed Madigan’s maneuver, argued Madigan was playing a game
with state workers’ lives by forcing a large swath of state
government to go dark in a bid to leverage a budget deal.

“They were trying to start a game of chicken with the threat
of a government shutdown,” union lawyer Steve Yokich said.

The governor’s office applauded the judge’s decision.

“It is our hope the attorney general drops this lawsuit so
the bipartisan negotiations in the Senate can continue in order
to reach a balanced budget with changes to get our state back on
track,” Rauner’s general counsel, Dennis Murashko, said in a
statement.

Rauner on Wednesday unveiled a fiscal 2018 general fund
budget that calls for $37.3 billion in spending but projects
$32.7 billion in revenue, leaving $4.57 billion in unspecified
cuts and revenue increases to be negotiated with the
legislature.



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