Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed court papers Thursday asking to suspend state workers’ pay by the end of February as a move to end the state government’s budget impasse.
According to reporting by the Chicago Sun-Times, Madigan is seeking the pay-freeze unless Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Illinois General Assembly approve a spending plan.
The request would dissolve a preliminary injunction, the Chicago Sun-Times wrote, that allowed tens of thousands of state workers to be paid during the impasse — threatening or stalling funding to various entities, including public universities and social service not-for-profits.
“The people ask that this court terminate the injunction as of February 28, 2017, giving the General Assembly and the governor additional time to enact appropriations legislation before the injunction is dissolved,” Madigan wrote in the filing.
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In a statement, Madigan wrote that the preliminary injunction filed in 2016 to continue state workers’ pay “has removed much of the urgency for the Legislature and the governor to act on a budget.”
“It’s disappointing to see any move to stop employee pay and disrupt government services, especially now as the Senate is on the verge of a bipartisan agreement to enact a balanced budget with changes to the system,” Gov. Bruce Rauner spokesperson Catherine Kelly stated in a release sent out just before 8 p.m. Thursday. “This filing seeks to directly harm thousands of employee families and even more who rely on our dedicated state workers everyday. We urge the Attorney General to reconsider this filing and pledge to do all we can to defend employee pay.”
In a similar release, Comptroller Susana Mendoza stated that the court has been asked to delay responding to this request so that the Governor’s Office can prepare a budget and submit it to the General Assembly.
“Had Governor Rauner met his constitutional duty to propose a balanced budget in 2015 or 2016, we would not be facing a scenario where the livelihoods of our frontline employees could be threatened in this way,” Mendoza said in her statement. “Due to Governor Rauner’s abdication of his constitutional executive duties, our state finances continue to be managed almost wholly by court orders and judge edicts. It’s shameful that under his administration, the fifth largest state in the country is forced to operate like a bankrupt business.”
Her statement also stated her office is working on contingency plans to meet technical adjustments that a payroll stoppage would require.
“For example, employees in certain categories would receive partial payments and their paychecks and deductions would have to be adjusted accordingly,” it stated.
Rep. Avery Bourne also publicly reacted to Madigan’s filing.
“The recent court filing from Attorney General Lisa Madigan can only be described as putting politics over people,” Bourne stated in a release. “This politically-motivated action is the same kind of Chicago-style politics that the Madigans too often employ. At a meeting I attended just this morning, a comment was made that, ‘as soon as deals in Illinois are close to done, someone always tries to blow it up.’ While the Senate has been negotiating and making progress towards a bipartisan budget deal, Madigan chose to instead disrupt state employee pay in an attempt to force a shutdown of state government, crippling vital government services and endangering families who rely on them. Attorney General Lisa Madigan should immediately denounce these hardball political tactics and stand with state employees and those who rely on state services.”
Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti also released a statement late Thursday in response to the suit.
“Just one day after Gov. Rauner thanked the Senate for their work to reach a bipartisan agreement on a balanced budget, Attorney General Madigan is attempting to disrupt that progress by filing a lawsuit that could shut down government operations,” the statement read. “Illinois’ hardworking state employees deserve to be paid so they can continue to support their families who depend on their work.”
Madigan is the daughter of Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan.
State Republicans noted the relationship in their statement.
“While serious bipartisan negotiations have accelerated in the Senate, it is outrageous that Lisa Madigan tonight decided to put Speaker Madigan’s power politics ahead of hard-working families in an effort to shut down state government,” GOP spokesman Steven Yaffe said in a statement. “Only a Madigan would try to disrupt bipartisan momentum in a matter that threatens to cripple government services and hurt state workers and their families.”