Illinois may not continue to pay state workers in full during an ongoing budget impasse, a Cook County judge ruled Tuesday.
In response to a request for a legal review by Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Judge Diane Joan Larsen said Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger may pay only some workers who are covered under a federal law. Those workers would receive federal minimum wage plus overtime.
Munger's attorneys said it would take the state as long as a year to determine which employees would be paid under federal law and how much. That effectively means no workers will be paid until Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democrats who control the Legislature approve a budget, the comptroller's attorneys said.
"I am disappointed and respectfully disagree with today's ruling," Munger said in a statement. "We went to Court to ensure that my office can comply with federal law and compensate employees for services they are already providing to the state. Ultimately, that can best be accomplished by paying all workers as scheduled."
Lawmakers have been deadlocked over a budget for weeks. Rauner, a conservative businessman seeking pro-business reforms in Illinois, vetoed a spending plan passed by the Legislature that fell far short of available revenues. Democrats such as House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton are seeking increases in revenue to ensure the government continues to provide social services and other key operations.
Lisa Madigan, a Democrat and the speaker's daughter, had asked the judge to clarify what state government is obligated to pay without an approved budget for the fiscal year that started July 1.
Without appropriation power, the comptroller is likely limited to paying only crucial bills, such as debt service, federal-program participation fees and payments required by court orders.
Munger, a Republican, wanted the judge to rule that all state employees fit into that category based on a 2009 court order during another budget impasse. But Madigan, a Democrat, said that court order and an earlier one indicated that the only allowed pay was limited to federal minimum wage.
On the eve of the budget deadline, The Associated Press obtained a letter that showed that Rauner's personnel agency should continue to pay state employees full wages during a budget impasse.