Following last week’s Illinois Supreme Court ruling about state employee back pay, a report has emerged that the Attorney General may attempt to stop issuing paychecks while Illinois’ budget stalemate, now entering its 10th month, continues.
Governor Bruce Rauner sent a letter to state employees this week, promising to fight to ensure that paychecks are delivered on time and in full. “Last summer, the Comptroller and I were successful in opposing such efforts and we intend to do the same here,” Rauner stated in the letter.
The Governor’s Letter:
Dear State Employee:
In response to a growing number of questions from state employees, I want to update you on a recent report that the Attorney General may seek to halt state employee pay in the absence of a state budget.
I want to make clear that this report has not been confirmed. Frankly, I can't believe anyone would proactively attempt to halt state employee pay or shut down the government. Last summer, the Comptroller and I were successful in opposing such efforts and we intend to do the same here.
Federal law, including the Fair Labor Standards Act, requires us to pay employees for their services. The Attorney General's Office itself even argued during the 2007 budget impasse, and a state court agreed, that those federal laws mandate the continuation of state pay in the absence of a budget. The St. Clair County Circuit Court in its order last summer acknowledged that the failure to pay state employees will "expose the State to great liability because of remedies available to employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act."
Nothing about last week's Supreme Court ruling on back pay changes the fact that the Attorney General was right in 2007 and the St. Clair County judge was right in July 2015. We have a continuing legal obligation to comply with those federal laws, and processing our employee payroll in its current form is the only way to ensure our full compliance.
Eliminating state pay and shutting down state offices will jeopardize the well-being of our citizens. In fact, the interruption of critical state services would violate many of the over 80 consent decrees that govern the operation of state government. Those orders, and the state and federal laws they are intended to enforce, may not simply be ignored.
If a legal attempt to block employee pay or shut down state government succeeds, we will demand a vote in the General Assembly on Representative C.D. Davidsmeyer's HB 4245, legislation that would make state employee pay a continuing appropriation - no different than the continuing appropriation that the General Assembly voted for itself. No executive branch employee, under the Governor's jurisdiction, the Attorney General's jurisdiction, or under any other constitutional officer, should be considered a second-class citizen to a different, equal branch of government. If House Democrats can take a month-long vacation and still get paid without a state budget, surely our dedicated state employees who show up for work every day deserve to get paid as well.
Rest assured, whether in the courts or in the General Assembly, our administration will fight to ensure that state employees are fully paid on time.