Unions and Comptroller to appeal Tuesday ruling halting state worker pay

SPRINGFIELD — State workers can’t paid their full salaries as long there’s no state budget, according to a court ruling.

Illinois Attorney General Spokeswoman Natalie Bauer addresses the media following a judge's ruling that state employees cannot be paid in full without a state budget. CREDIT: Illinois Radio Network/John Gregory
Illinois Attorney General Spokeswoman Natalie Bauer addresses the media following a judge’s ruling that state employees cannot be paid in full without a state budget. CREDIT: Illinois Radio Network/John Gregory

The argument from the Attorney General’s office was under federal law, only certain workers are entitled to being paid the federal minimum wage plus overtime during this budget impasse.

Comptroller’s office lawyers argued the state doesn’t have a system in place to figure out which workers will be paid and which won’t, so the safest option was pay all workers in full, but Cook County judge Diane Joan Larsen sided with the Attorney General.

AG spokeswoman Natalie Bauer says the ruling focused on the law, not the feasibility of finding which workers can and can’t be paid.

“There must be a budget in place in order to comply with the constitution,”  Bauer said. “This is an issue of the constitution as opposed to logistical questions.

The comptroller’s office based its position on what happened during the 2007 budget impasse, when a court order allowed the state to pay all workers in full. Assistant Attorney General Brett Legner argued in court that this situation was different as there’s no indication a budget agreement is imminent.

In ruling against the comptroller’s office, Larsen said the state knew in 2007 that it needed to find a way to comply with the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA) should this situation arise again. The same problems still exist eight years later, though Comptroller Leslie Munger says her office is working on upgrading state accounting systems.

An appeal is already in the works.

“The governor believes state workers should be paid in full,” said Lance Trover, spokesman for Gov. Bruce Rauner. “He has asked CMS to explore all of its legal options, including seeking an expedited appeal of this order or other emergency relief to ensure that employees are paid and critical state services are not disrupted.”

AFSCME Council 31 executive director Roberta Lynch issued this statement in response to the July 7 decision of Cook County Circuit Court judge Diane Larsen that, in the absence of a state spending plan for Fiscal Year 2016, Illinois state employees should be paid in accordance with the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (only minimum wage and applicable overtime) or not paid at all:“Public service workers in state government are on the job despite the lack of a state budget for the fiscal year that started July 1.

Throughout Illinois they are keeping their communities safe, protecting kids, caring for veterans and people with disabilities, and providing countless other vital public services – and they should be paid for their work on time and in full.

We are disappointed by the Cook County judge’s decision to the contrary, and we intend to appeal it.“In addition, AFSCME and other unions representing state employees have filed a separate case on an impairment of contract claim in St. Clair County, and we hope to appear before a judge in that proceeding this week.”