Attorney General: Illinois Didn’t Breach Contracts By Not Paying Social Service Agencies During Budget Impasse
Attorneys for the State of Illinois are fighting a lawsuit from social service agencies that weren’t paid during the year-long budget impasse, even though they were contracted to do that work.
Nearly 100 social service agencies are suing the State of Illinois for payment in one, big lawsuit currently before Cook County Judge Rodolfo Garcia. Those agencies contracted with the state to provide care for the elderly, victims of sexual assault and people with mental illnesses.
One of those organizations suing the state — Ounce of Prevention, which advocates for early childhood education services for low income children — is run by Diana Rauner, who is married to Gov. Bruce Rauner.
In their lawsuit, attorneys for social service agencies argue that they continued to perform work during the year-long budget impasse and they should be paid for the full year’s worth of work. But they say the stopgap budget approved at the end of June by lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner does not pay organizations everything they’re owed.
They’re asking Judge Garcia to force the state to pay them what they’re owed. In their court filing, attorneys say six organizations could close completely, and many other social services have exhausted their lines of credit while they’ve continued to provide services without payment from the State of Illinois.
The state, represented by the Office of the Attorney General, issued its first arguments to Judge Garcia on Thursday. In their filing, they argue those social service contracts had a clause saying any work done is subject to appropriation, meaning even though the stopgap budget does not pay social services everything they’re owed, the state hasn’t violated its contracts.
Attorneys for the state also argue that the state does not currently have sufficient funds to pay the social services everything they’re owed, and forcing the state to make those payments would “impose serious hardship” on other organizations that did not join the lawsuit, but are also owed money.
Last year Gov. Rauner vetoed a spending plan passed by Democratic lawmakers, saying it spent more than the state could afford. That led to a year-long political impasse between Rauner and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, during which state government was funded primarily through court orders and partial budgets.
State universities eventually received partial funding, while there were no appropriations for social service agencies until June. The money from the stopgap budget is expected to last through December.
Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold.