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AG, comptroller to meet in court Tuesday; Each as her own views on state payroll legality

By Mark Fitton | Jul 7, 2015


SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Attorney General’s and Comptroller’s Offices will meet in court Tuesday morning in an attempt to find out how much the state can and should pay its employees during a no-budget shutdown.

The two constitutional officers have differing opinions on what the law demands and when it will allow payment.

Comptroller Leslie Munger, R-Lincolnshire, is asking the court to direct her to make the state’s full payroll, according to a statement from her office Monday.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan, D-Chicago, on the other hand says the state is limited in what it can pay out during a period when there are no spending-authorization bills both passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor.

There seems no debate that the federal Fair Labor Standards Act demands Illinois must pay federal minimum wage to some state employees who work during a no-budget period.

Madigan seeks an “injunction requiring the comptroller to process payment vouchers for payrolls that meet only the minimum requirements of the FLSA or in the alternative an injunction enjoining the comptroller from processing payroll vouchers until the enactment of appropriations statutes.”

Munger, on the other hand, said she’ll be asking for “an order that will allow me to pay all state employees on their scheduled pay dates.”

Although on opposing sides in People of the State of Illinois v. Leslie Geissler Munger (as the comptroller), the two officials are not taking whacks at each other.

“I think we all agree that state employees should and deserve to be paid, and we all agree it should be done in a legally appropriate way,” Madigan spokeswoman Natalie Bauer said Monday.

Discussing the case late last week, Munger said, “I welcome the attorney general’s request of the court to give us some clarification on what we can and cannot pay.”

If paid only minimum wage, state workers would be paid the rest of their wages as soon as budget is reached and the resulting bills are signed.

Gov. Bruce Rauner, R-Winnetka, and Munger argue that an order in 2007 labor dispute allowed the state to make full payroll because its antiquated bookkeeping systems could not rapidly handle all of the tasks necessary to issue accurate, FLSA-only compliant checks for all its workers. 

Munger says that’s still still the case and she the state’s systems are hardly better, although improvements are on the way.

Her office also says if Illinois handles its payrolls improperly during this no-budget period, the state could face federal fines up to three times the amount of its total payroll.

Madigan argues the 2007 settlement was not as precedent-setting or controlling as the governor and comptroller contend.

Meanwhile, a group of unions that represent state workers has filed its own case in St. Clair County Circuit Court in an attempt to get full, on-time pay.

They say a failure to pay full wages would be in violation of the collective bargaining agreements the state has reached with the unions. 

Republicans led by Rauner and legislative Democrats have been unable this spring to reach a deal on a budget for fiscal year 2016, which began Wednesday.

As a result, a partial government shutdown is expected to intensify if July continues to pass without an agreement.

Mark Fitton is a reporter for Illinois News Network, a division of the Illinois Policy Institute.

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