CHICAGO --Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed motions Thursday to stop paying state employees until a budget has been passed. The state has been without a full budget for two years.
A court ruling last year put in place a preliminary injunction to force the state to pay its employees while funding for social services and higher education has been cut off by the lack of appropriations legislation. Madigan's court filings ask to dissolve that preliminary injunction and to stop pay to state employees until a budget is passed and signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner.
If the court allows it, state workers would stop being paid on Feb. 28.
"During this long impasse, the Illinois Supreme Court overruled the sole legal basis for the St. Clair County Court's order to allow state operations to continue without an appropriation. With a new legislative session now underway, this is an appropriate time to ask the Circuit Court to reconsider this order in light of the changes in the law," Madigan said in a statement.
Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza also issued a statement, saying in part, "Had Governor Rauner met his constitutional duty to propose a balanced budget in 2015 or 2016, we would not be facing a scenario where the livelihoods of our frontline employees could be threatened in this way. Due to Governor Rauner's abdication of his constitutional executive duties, our state finances continue to be managed almost wholly by court orders and judge edicts. It's shameful that under his administration, the fifth largest state in the country is forced to operate like a bankrupt business."
Rauner also responded in a statement, saying, "It's disappointing to see any move to stop employee pay and disrupt government services, especially now as the Senate is on the verge of a bipartisan agreement to enact a balanced budget with changes to the system. This filing seeks to directly harm thousands of employee families and even more who rely on our dedicated state workers everyday. We urge the Attorney General to reconsider this filing and pledge to do all we can to defend employee pay."
The budget stalemate began shortly after Rauner took office in 2015. He won't talk about how to tackle a multibillion-dollar deficit until Democrats consider business- and political-climate changes he says will boost the economy and restore voter confidence. Democrats have said the state should raise taxes and cut spending to get the deficit under control before addressing "non-budget" issues.
On Wednesday the Illinois Senate skipped a planned budget vote and announced it would reconvene Thursday.
The Senate plan, notably, would increase the personal income tax 33 percent, from 3.75 percent to 4.99 percent. It would create a 5 percent excise tax on some services such as car repair and laundry.
But it also includes legislation to answer Rauner's concerns. They include a two-year freeze on local property taxes, cost-cutting restrictions on payouts for workers' compensation claims, streamlined state purchasing and an avenue for voters to eliminate unnecessary local governments.
AFSCME, the union representing state workers, said it was taking time to review the motion and will respond in court.
"Governor Rauner created this hostage situation by refusing to enact a fully funded budget unless his unrelated personal demands were enacted first. He should put aside those demands and do his job to work toward a budget without preconditions. Even so, we are shocked and extremely disappointed that the Attorney General would take this action. It is fundamental that everyone who works must be paid on time and in full, but this filing throws that basic commitment into question for state employees," the union said in a statement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.