Almost 100 social service agencies in Illinois were dealt a blow in a Cook County courtroom Wednesday. Cook County Judge Rodolfo Garcia dismissed their lawsuit against the state of Illinois, which asked the court to force the state to fully pay them for work they were contracted to do during the year-long budget impasse. Some of those agencies served victims of sexual assault and people who are homeless. Illinois First Lady Diana Rauner is the president of Ounce of Prevention, which is also one of the organizations suing the state for reimbursement.
In court filings, attorneys for those social service organizations accused the state of “heartlessly” fighting against full reimbursement for work agencies had contracts to perform for the state.
Judge Garcia sided with attorneys for the state, who argued Illinois doesn't have to fully pay those agencies yet because a stopgap budget approved in June partially pays them what they're owed - although the state still has not paid out everything from that stopgap spending plan. The state also argued 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.
“The real problem we have is where would additional funding come from?” Judge Rodolfo asked during arguments Wednesday.
Rodolfo said by dismissing the case entirely, it allows the social services to quickly appeal his decision if they choose to. Andrea Durbin, who leads the Illinois Collaboration on Youth, said she’s not sure how many groups will continue in the legal fight.
“This ruling calls into question the validity of any contract anyone has with the State of Illinois,” Durbin said.
Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold.