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Appellate Court Hears Arguments Over Whether State Employees Can Be Paid During Budget Impasse

Fifth District Appellate Court
Brian Mackey
NPR Illinois
The Fifth District Appellate Court building in Mount Vernon, Illinois.

MOUNT VERNON — A case with the potential to upend Illinois' budget impasse was argued Tuesday before the Fifth District Appellate Court.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan is trying to halt employee paychecks. She says only the General Assembly can approve state spending — meaning Illinois doesn’t have the legal authority to make payroll.

The AFSCME union opposes the move. Lawyer Steve Yokich says employees could have been told to stay home during the impasse. Instead, they were told the opposite.

“We say that if the employer tells you to go to work, that they have a legal obligation to pay you at your regular rate of pay, in a timely way, for that work,” Yokich says.

Madigan argues that paying state employees removes “any imperative” for Governor Bruce Rauner and the General Assembly to “fulfill their basic constitutional obligations and resolve their budget impasse.”

There’s no schedule for when the Appellate Court justices might resolve the case. And even when they do, the losing party could seek an appeal before the Illinois Supreme Court — meaning any potential government shutdown remains a long way off.

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
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