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Rauner asks court to reject Lisa Madigan state worker motion

Gov. Bruce Rauner meeting with the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board last week. File Photo. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration on Tuesday filed an opposition to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s motion to halt state worker pay without a budget — arguing it violates federal law and urging the court to reject her “invitation to create an artificial emergency.”

Madigan last month filed court papers seeking to stop the paychecks by the end of February unless Rauner and the Illinois General Assembly approved a spending plan. Rauner’s filing comes ahead of a hearing in St. Clair County on Thursday.

The attorney general argued that the preliminary injunction filed last year to continue state workers’ pay “has removed much of the urgency for the Legislature and the governor to act on a budget.”

The Rauner administration filing says Madigan’s motion violates the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act — which requires employers to pay employees a minimum wage for hours worked. Even with appropriations, the state must pay at least minimum wage and overtime as needed to any employee covered by the act, the filing says.

State employees should also be paid to protect the “health, safety, and welfare of its citizens and numerous legislative commands require state employees to perform specific governmental functions,” the filing states.

The Rauner administration again questioned the timing of Madigan’s motion — dubbing it “hasty” in the filing.

“The Supreme Court decision on which she constructs her argument was issued on March 24, 2016. That was almost ten months ago. If the Attorney General thought her appropriation clause argument dispositive, she would have been in this Court just days after the decision issued. Instead, she waited. If there was no emergency in March 2016, there is no reason for the Attorney General to ask this Court to act precipitously today,” the response says.

The filing argues if Madigan wins the motion, she should be able to explain which state employees “must be deprived of a paycheck” and which services she believes should no longer be provided to the people of this State.”

Tuesday’s opposition filing by Rauner attorneys and attorneys for Michael Hoffman, director of the state’s Department of Central Management Services notes Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza “has refused to oppose” the motion and isn’t a party to the opposition filing.

Rauner has urged Mendoza to hire her own independent counsel — as did her predecessor Leslie Munger, who was last month appointed a deputy governor.

Mendoza’s office, in turn, has said Rauner could end the court action “easily” by “fulfilling his constitutional duty to propose a balanced budget.”

Madigan’s office on Tuesday said Rauner’s response is asking the court “to relieve him of his responsibility to ever sign a budget covering the state employee payroll.”

“Everything in his brief about state services should be addressed by working with the Legislature to enact appropriations covering state operations,” spokeswoman Maura Possley said in a statement. “The Governor should do his job instead of asking the court to do it for him.”

The attorney general’s filing has stirred existing political tensions. The governor for weeks has publicly asked Madigan to reconsider the motion. And without naming her father, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, he has questioned whether the filing is meant to create a “crisis.”

“I hope this is not a direct attempt to cause a crisis, to force a shutdown of the government to force another stopgap spending plan, short-term, unbalanced, incomplete, as a step to force a tax hike without any changes to our broken system,” Rauner said last month.

Lisa Madigan’s office has said the claim that the filing has created a crisis “ignores the reality” that nonprofits, grantees, vendors and universities have been living in crisis for more than a year without a budget.

The motion came ahead of a strike authorization vote for members of the American Federation of State, Council and Municipal Employees Council 31. Voting began in late January and runs through mid-February. They are the state’s largest public employee union and are embroiled in a contract dispute with the Rauner administration after an impasse was declared.

Lisa Madigan’s request seeks to dissolve a preliminary injunction that allowed tens of thousands of state workers to be paid during the impasse, which has threatened or stalled funding to a variety of entities, including public universities and social service not-for-profits. Rauner wants any budget deal to include elements of his “Turnaround Agenda,” including a temporary property-tax freeze, term limits and changes in workers’ compensation law.

Opposition to Motion, AFSCME v. Rauner, 15-CH-475 by Scott Fornek on Scribd