Illinois State Employees Don't Have Many Options Left for Pay During Shutdown

Cook County Circuit Judge Diane Larsen on Tuesday ruled that without a state budget, the Illinois Comptroller's Office can't issue paychecks to the vast majority of state employees.

In essence, Larsen said there is no creative interpretation to this line in the Illinois Constitution: "The General Assembly by law shall make appropriations for all expenditures of public funds by the State."

No budget, no employee paychecks.

The ruling was a setback to Gov. Bruce Rauner and Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger, both of whom argued that the state needs to continue paying all its employees their full salaries during the current budget deadlock so it can stay in compliance with federal labor law. Readers should take note: This may be the only time that Rauner and government unions see eye-to-eye no matter how many terms Rauner serves.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan had sought the opinion to make clear what Munger's office can and can't pay when there is no state budget signed into law. Madigan had argued that without authorization via a state budget, the comptroller's office could pay only essential state employees the federal minimum wage, as required by the Federal Labor Standards Act.

"I absolutely want state employees to be paid their full wages. But the Illinois Constitution and case law are clear: The state cannot pay employees without a budget. The judge's order reaffirms this," Madigan said after Larsen issued her ruling. "It remains up to the governor and the Legislature to enact a state budget to allow for necessary government operations and programs to continue."

But Madigan's motion also contained a memo from the state Department of Central Management Services that said the state's payroll is maintained using "several different payroll systems" and it would take "nine to 12 months" to process roughly 45,000 state employee records to come into federal compliance. When a budget eventually is in place, according to the memo, it will be equally difficult to restore the employees' original payroll status.

Thus, the best way for the state to remain compliant with the federal rules is to simply continue paying everyone their full salary on schedule, the memo concludes.

Read the rest at Reboot Illinois.

One unusual affect of the court ruling that determined state employees could not be paid during the shutdown was that it united Rauner and union the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, who are usually adversaries. Check out at Reboot Illinois the ins and outs of this unlikely ally-ship.