Yesterday Governor Rauner issued a letter indicating that he does not intend to shut down state government and that state employees should report to work as scheduled.
Comptroller Munger has affirmed that all state employees will be paid for work performed through the conclusion of the FY 15 fiscal year. This means that AFSCME members in state agencies under the governor will receive their paychecks as due on or about July 15.
However, the Comptroller has indicated that she does not believe she has the authority to issue paychecks for work performed in the new fiscal year, absent a court order to that effect. This means that if the budget standoff continues over the coming weeks, the Comptroller is not prepared to issue paychecks that will be due on or about August 1.
For this reason, AFSCME and other unions representing state employees in all branches of state government are now preparing to file suit in state court seeking such a court order. The legal issues involved are complex and will be fully delineated once the court papers have been filed.
When a similar situation occurred in 2007 and no budget was in place, AFSCME then also took legal action to compel payment of wages. In that instance, the Comptroller (then Dan Hynes) and the Attorney General (Lisa Madigan) entered into an agreed order with the union that resolved the suit and provided for all employees to be paid in full.
In this case, while the governor has indicated his willingness to work with the unions to find a legal path that will allow wages to be paid, it is not clear whether the Attorney General will do the same.
However, no matter what path any elected official chooses to pursue, I want to assure you that AFSCME and other affected unions intend to exhaust every available legal remedy in seeking to ensure that employees are paid on time and in full.
At the same time, we will continue to stress that the only real solution to this crisis is the enactment of an FY 16 budget. From the outset of this budget standoff, our union has emphasized the critical importance of maintaining the public services on which citizens rely. Even though state government will continue to operate, there can be no doubt that the lack of a budget poses a real threat to the public good—both because of the uncertainty as to whether state employees will continue to be paid after July 15 and because of the harm to children, families and seniors served by state-funded nonprofit agencies whose funding is now in limbo.
For these reasons, we have reiterated our call for Governor Rauner to abandon his insistence that legislators must first act on his array of non-budgetary demands before he will make a serious effort to resolve the budget dispute. These demands have shifted over recent weeks, but consistently aim to undermine middle class families in our state—whether by taking collective bargaining rights away from state employees, by limiting the ability of unions to advocate for working families, by cutting benefits for injured workers, or by reducing public employee pension benefits. Such proposals will not serve to “turn around” Illinois but rather will only further unravel the economic fabric of our state.
Legislators of both parties have indicated a willingness to tackle the state budget head on. It’s time for Governor Rauner to put his personal agenda aside and work constructively with legislators to ensure sufficient revenues to fund the services on which so many Illinois citizens rely.