St. Clair County Circuit Judge Robert LeChien, overseeing the state’s payroll in the absence of a budget, ordered Gov. Bruce Rauner to pay 578 employees from revolving funds rather than the general fund.
On March 7, LeChien ruled that state comptroller Susana Mendoza didn’t violate an order of his court when she asked Rauner to change payment sources.
Rauner filed a notice of appeal on LeChien’s docket on March 8, although the Fifth District appellate court had not docketed any petition as of March 10.
LeChien took charge of the state payroll in July 2015, upon expiration of the state’s budget and its union contracts.
He ruled in favor of the unions and former comptroller Leslie Munger, who sought to process a normal payroll pending adoption of a budget.
Rauner and the unions then adopted a tolling agreement to preserve the status quo until they adopted a budget or reached an impasse.
Rauner declared an impasse last year, but the unions deny they’ve reached one.
Last month, Mendoza told central management services director Michael Hoffman that his department could no longer pay employees from the general fund.
She told him to pay them from his department’s facilities management revolving fund and its state garage revolving fund.
Hoffman wrote back that, “The limited cash in the revolving funds must be used to cover critical state services such as leases and bond payments on facilities, utilities, maintenance of the state’s vehicles, and fuel related costs.”
He wrote that shifting payroll to those funds would ensure their depletion long before the fiscal year ends.
He wrote that after drawing the funds down to zero, Mendoza would have to switch back to the general fund to comply with LeChien’s order.
On March 2, assistant comptroller Kevin Schoeben rejected Hoffman’s voucher for the March 8 payroll.
“In regard to potential disruption of critical services, if you feel that you have over extended your obligations as to put critical health and safety functions of the state at risk, we encourage you to seek the proper appropriation authority from the General Assembly and the Governor immediately,” Schoeben wrote.
On March 6, Rauner counsel Kenton Skarin asked LeChien to enforce compliance with his order.
“Pursuant to this order, for more than 18 months agencies throughout the state have submitted vouchers to the comptroller’s office,” Skarkin wrote.
He wrote that Mendoza and Munger honored vouchers pursuant to the order.
He filed notice of a telephone conference with LeChien at 11:30 a.m. that day.
For Mendoza, assistant attorney general Brett Legner responded that Hoffman asked the court to micro manage specific funds.
He wrote that Hoffman tried to treat LeChien’s order as a blank check.
He wrote that the general fund has a bill backlog of more than $12 billion.
LeChien held a conference and found that it was not unreasonable or an abuse of discretion for Mendoza to require vouchers drawing on revolving funds.
The Fifth District already has on its docket a petition to appeal an order LeChien signed in the case last month, keeping his original order in force.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan had asked him to vacate the order, pleading that it allowed Rauner and legislators to shirk their constitutional duty.