Illinois Constitution Is for Rule of Law, Not Political Benefits

The General Assembly by law shall make appropriations for all expenditures of public funds by the State. Appropriations for a fiscal year shall not exceed funds estimated by the General Assembly to be available during that year.

Illinois Constitution, Article VIII, section 2 (b)

There's nothing mysterious or complicated about the Illinois Constitution's directive on state expenditures. They all must be defined by the General Assembly. Without an appropriation, there is no authority to spend.

It's very simple and for good reason. In theory, it forces the General Assembly and the governor to draft an agreed-upon spending plan before the budget year begins. Failure to do so invites painful consequences as government attempts to function with no money. More precisely, with no authorization for discretionary spending of the money it has. (And in theory, it also requires spending to not exceed revenue for the coming year, something the Democrats in the General Assembly disregarded in 2014.)

This is why Attorney General Lisa Madigan is correct in arguing that the Illinois Comptroller's Office has no legal authority to issue state employee paychecks. She's also doing the right thing in pursuing a ruling from the Illinois Supreme Court on whether Illinois state employees can be paid without a state budget.

Due to a pair of dueling circuit court rulings last week, first in Cook County and then in St. Clair County, the Illinois Comptroller's Office has begun processing payroll as usual. Which is to say, processing payroll as if there is a state budget that authorizes said payroll spending.

Read the rest at Reboot Illinois.

Questions about the constitution also surround the finer details of the state's budget shutdown. The Supreme Court said the comptroller's office could only pay "essential" employees in the event of a shutdown, according to the Illinois constitution, but Comptroller Leslie Munger told employees they would receive their normal July 15 paychecks either way. Mark Fitton of the Illinois News Network explained the situation at Reboot Illinois.