SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner suggested Friday that the state’s attorney general might be trying to “cause a crisis” by asking a court to stop paying more than 62,000 government workers while a historic budget stalemate drags on.
Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed the motion Thursday in St. Clair County, a staunch working-class Illinois suburb of St. Louis where a judge nearly two years ago ordered that withholding paychecks, even without a budget, would violate the state Constitution.
Madigan’s move would halt the state’s $400 million-a-month payroll and raise the specter of a government shutdown that could force feuding Democrats and Republicans back to the bargaining table.
“I hope this is not a direct attempt to cause a crisis to force a shutdown of the government … as a step to force a tax hike without any changes to our broken system,” Rauner told reporters Friday in Chicago. “This is going to hurt working families, the good, hard-working employees of Illinois who deserve to be paid, who deserve to stay working.”
The first-term Republican governor campaigned on smaller government and often impugned state workers. But he became their biggest ally in 2015 when their paychecks were threatened and a work stoppage would have evaporated his leverage in his quest to tie a balanced budget to restructuring the business climate to boost commerce, curtail union influence and curb politicians’ power.
Madigan is the daughter of House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat who has been the major voice of the opposition to Rauner during the stalemate.
Illinois has been without a budget since July 1, 2015 — the longest any state has gone with no spending plan since at least since World War II.
Lisa Madigan’s motion asks St. Clair court to dissolve by Feb. 28 a preliminary injunction that allows for state workers to be paid during the budget impasse.
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 spokesman Anders Lindall said the union was “shocked and extremely disappointed” by the filing.
“Despite all the chaos in state government in the past two years, the people of Illinois have been able to count on state employees being on the job to serve them,” Lindall said. “The last thing Illinois needs is the further instability that blocking state payroll could cause.”
Madigan noted that unpaid vendors and grantees who continue to provide services for Illinois are bearing the brunt of “this egregious and untenable budget impasse.”
Senators failed to vote Thursday on a compromise to end a historic budget deadlock. The plan by Democratic Senate President John Cullerton and Republican leader Christine Radogno would have raised income tax and created a service tax to beat down the deficit. It also included cost-saving measures to the workers’ compensation program and a property-tax freeze sought by Rauner, pension- and school-funding overhauls, expanded casino gambling and more.