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Rauner says Dems trying to create crisis; they say, do your job

Gov. Bruce Rauner at Mount Sinai Hospital last month. File Photo. | Santiago Covarrubias/For the Sun-Times; Then City Clerk Susana A. Mendoza meeting with the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board in 2014. File Photo| Al Podgorski / Sun-Times Media; Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan speaks at a press conference at James R. Thompson Center last month. File Photo. | Maria Cardona/ Sun-Times; House Speaker Michael Madigan last year. (AP File Photo/Seth Perlman)

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Bruce Rauner and his Illinois Republican Party on Wednesday accused Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, her father, House Speaker Michael Madigan, and Comptroller Susana Mendoza of colluding to “force a government shutdown.”

The speaker’s spokesman dismissed the charge as “delusional babble,” Mendoza urged the governor to “take off the tinfoil conspiracy theory hat” and focus on a balanced budget, and the attorney general’s spokeswoman said Rauner “needs to stop the baseless finger-pointing and do his job.”

The governor placed the targets on the top Democrats a day after Lisa Madigan filed a motion to take her state worker pay case to the Illinois Supreme Court. She is arguing that state workers can’t be paid if the state has no budget. Mendoza, meanwhile, had scored a victory Tuesday in a St. Clair County courtroom when a judge affirmed she has the authority to choose the fund to pay the state’s bills.

“This is an attempt to create a crisis and force a tax hike without any changes to our system and this is clearly part of a coordinated activity, coordinated pattern between the attorney general, our comptroller and, frankly, our speaker, who coordinates it all to create a crisis and shut down the government,” Rauner said.

The governor said he didn’t agree with the ruling but would “honor” it. But later Wednesday afternoon, his administration appealed the court order. Mendoza’s office, however, says the state’s Department of Central Management Services re-submitted vouchers for 578 employees affected by the dispute, and they’d get paychecks on Friday. The comptroller’s office says the vouchers were submitted during a “brief window” between the governor saying he’d abide by the ruling and the appeal.

“We submitted the payroll per her request but are appealing because we are going to continue fighting Comptroller Mendoza’s push to cripple state government operations — part of the coordinated effort to shut down state government,” Rauner spokeswoman Eleni Demertzis said in a statement.

The governor said Mendoza is working to “deplete those funds” to create a crisis by forcing a shutdown to get a “stopgap budget” or to get a tax hike without structural changes.

The Rauner administration took legal action this week to respond to Mendoza’s use of a fund to pay 600 state employees from a fund reserved for garage and facilities maintenance, instead of the general revenue fund.  They argued using those funds would put critical government service at risk because they had been using them to pay for daily operations during the state’s budget impasse.

But Mendoza contended Rauner “began stashing cash in the garage and facilities maintenance funds, which he began referring to as ‘government shutdown prevention funds’ and demanded our office raid the General Revenue Fund to pay those employees.” She said pulling from the general revenue fund “makes no fiscal sense” and would mean paychecks for healthcare workers, caretakers for the disabled and mental health counselors would be even more delayed.

“This is an important victory reinforcing my office’s role as a check and balance on an over-reaching governor,” Mendoza said in a statement Tuesday night after the court ruling.

And striking back at the governor’s “shutdown” accusations, Mendoza called him “the biggest bully in the state” while asking him to “take off the tinfoil conspiracy theory hat, stop criticizing judges and insulting employees’ intelligence.”

“Today, on International Women’s Day, Gov. Rauner accused me of taking my orders from the boys,” Mendoza said in a statement. “There’s only one person that tells me what to do and that’s my mother. And today I honor her by continuing to stand up to him, the biggest bully in the state.”

Meanwhile, Attorney General Madigan on Tuesday asked the Illinois Supreme Court to take up her state worker pay motion in an effort to speed up the appeal process.

Last month, a St. Clair County judge sided with the Rauner administration over a motion the attorney general filed in January to halt state worker pay without a budget. The attorney general said she was doing so to create pressure on lawmakers and Rauner to end the budget impasse. But Rauner has questioned the timing of that filing, and did so again on Wednesday.

“Why did she do this now? This is an important point. Why did the attorney general choose to do this now when the Senate announced that they were getting close to a grand bargain,” Rauner said. “If she really believed that was the right thing to do, she could have done this 18 months ago. She’s doing this because she and the organizations — it’s a coordinated effort to make sure to create a crisis, shut down the government and force a tax hike. That’s what they’re trying to do.”

Lisa Madigan’s office called Rauner’s accusation of being part of a “coordinated” effort a way to distract from blame over the budget mess.

“The governor is clearly desperate to shift blame onto anyone but himself,” Madigan spokeswoman Maura Possley said. “And he needs to stop the baseless finger-pointing and do his job.”

Rauner’s Illinois Republican Party on Wednesday deepened its attack on the Madigans, releasing an ad accusing them of trying to shut down state government and “putting themselves ahead of taxpayers, state employees and vulnerable people who rely on state services.”

Speaker Madigan’s spokesman fired right back.

“This is just more delusional babble that seems to be happening with more regularity,” Brown said. “I don’t know whether that suggests some bigger problems in the Rauner administration or what, but it’s clearly delusional babble.”