Governor, AG differ on legality of payroll without budget

By Mark Fitton
Illinois News Network

SPRINGFIELD — If there’s no budget come July 1, state workers must show up for work and they will be paid, Gov. Bruce Rauner said Monday in a memo to employees.

Also on Monday, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan issued her own statement on the matter of payroll, essentially saying Rauner might be painting those paychecks as more certain than they actually are.

Meanwhile, the head of the state’s biggest employee union said its members will be on the job,  and the union is ready to take the payroll issue to court.

“State employees will remain on the job and, as we have done in the past, AFSCME has prepared to take legal action to ensure that they are paid for their work on time and in full,” said Roberta Lynch, executive director of American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Council 31.

In his own memo, Rauner said, “State employees will be paid for their work — and I will do everything within my power to ensure you don’t miss a single payroll. Our lawyers are working hard to ensure that all employees will be paid on their scheduled pay dates. The precedent already exists.”

“This is the right thing to do,” the governor wrote, “and I will work with union leaders to fight any legal attempts to overturn existing precedent.”

The attorney general’s statement, although apparently not written as a direct response to the governor’s position, indicated the precedent cited by the governor’s office is overarching.

“While there are limited payments that the comptroller is authorized to make in the absence of a budget, Illinois law is clear that the State cannot continue to fund all government operations and services in the absence of a budget passed by the legislature and signed into law by the governor,” Madigan wrote.

She also said the state constitution “and statutes prevent the comptroller from continuing to pay expenditures, including the state’s payroll, without a budget, and even a court cannot order all of these payments to be made.”

The state in 2007, having gone through July on a one-month budget, was sued by AFSCME, which sought August pay for its members, Madigan said.

But, Madigan wrote, that question revolved around the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, which mandates that employees who are covered by that law must be paid the federal minimum wage on the date that their regular paychecks are due.

Because the state was not prepared to pay only an FLSA-compliant payroll in time to meet with August payroll deadlines, the court allowed it to meet a full payroll. But the court, Madigan said, “made clear that the order did not establish any precedent for such an order in the future.”

With that in mind, the attorney general said she was issuing government leaders guidance in the form of two overviews.

The first involves application of the FLSA so that state offices and agencies can be prepared to comply with that law in time for the payroll deadlines in mid-July.

The second focuses on identifying essential personnel and services necessary to maintain the health, safety and welfare of the people of Illinois.

Rauner and his GOP leaders in the House and Senate are locked in battle with legislative Democrats who control both chambers, including Lisa Madigan’s father, Speaker of the House Michael J. Madigan.

Rauner wants worker’s compensation and lawsuit reform, a property tax freeze, term limits and legislative redistricting reform. Democrats say even on items they might be able to agree with the governor, the administration attaches demands that are so anti-labor union as to make his proposals poison pills.

Democrats, in turn, want a general fund budget of about $36 billion while acknowledging that’s $3 billion short of their own revenue estimate, or about $4 billion light according to Republicans’ math. Rauner and other GOP leaders say “no” to tax increases until there are reforms.

And while Rauner says Democrats have refused to negotiate, they say the governor has hardly met them halfway but instead simply rewritten his own wish list and called that negotiating

With fiscal year 2016 about to begin Wednesday, July 1, 2015, and no budget in place, a partial government shutdown is anticipated.

Schools, however, will be able to open on time as that is the one large part of the state’s budget that Rauner signed last week.

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