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Question of the day

Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013

* Sen. Bill Brady and other Republicans have joined with House Speaker Michael Madigan to oppose appropriating money during the veto session to fund some state employee pay raises going back to 2011. Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, however, believes the money should be allocated

“I think you’ll probably have to have a supplemental appropriation,” Topinka said at a Springfield news conference. “I don’t know how else you do it. Where else are you going to get the money? It’s not like it’s lying around. I don’t have bags of it sitting around the office.” […]

That includes $112 million needed to pay back wages — plus 7 percent interest — to about 25,000 union workers who were denied raises they were due under their previous labor agreement. Quinn suspended the raises, saying lawmakers did not approve money to pay them. The issue was taken to court, and a judge sided with the unions and said the state had to honor the back wages with interest. […]

House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, has balked at the idea of approving a supplemental budget to pay the wages. He has said agencies should cover the back wages out of the spending plan approved by lawmakers in May.

Keep in mind that the fiscal year revenue forecast has been revised upward by about $360 million.

* The Question: Should the General Assembly vote to appropriate $112 million plus interest to fund the back pay, or should agencies be told to find the money within their own budgets and the $112 million+ be used to pay off other old bills? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.

survey tools

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - reformer - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 1:39 pm:

    I suppose if the constitution doesn’t matter when it comes to pensions, why should it matter when it comes to contracts?

  2. - cynical retiree - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 1:53 pm:

    The legislature has made sure to receive their own back pay. The State employees signed a valid contract and did the work. The judge has spoken and they must be paid. Why on earth would the legislature leave a debt on the table with mandatory 7% interest until settled? That makes no fiscal sense.

  3. - Huh? - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 1:54 pm:

    Yes. The money is owed to the employees. Pay it now or pay it later. Sooner or later, somebody is going to file a lawsuit and get the money anyways.

  4. - Interest - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 1:58 pm:

    I hope they put off paying it as long as possible. 7 percent return is a decent investment.

  5. - Sir Reel - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 1:59 pm:

    I voted to pay. As a former non union employee who saw virtually no raises for years and was forced to take unpaid furlongs it’s hard to feel sympathy for the generous raises union employees received but the judge has ruled. But future contacts should be much less generous so we don’t end up here again.

  6. - Sir Reel - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 2:02 pm:

    Furloughs not furlongs. I must have been thinking of ways to boost my meager State pension!

  7. - PastorMike - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 2:06 pm:

    It was not the agencies fault not to pay them. The legislature failed to approve the initial payments, they should be on the hook for the payments plus the interest…

  8. - CircularFiringSquad - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 2:15 pm:

    Looks like the workforce is busy this afternoon
    Memo to Me./Ms. Pastor Mike the agencies were given huge lump sum budgets and they can decide to operate the government or hand out raises

  9. - Gathersno - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 2:17 pm:

    It’s too bad that community agencies can’t get 7% on what they are owed by the state. They only receive 1% on late payments after 90 due.

  10. - Nonplussed - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 2:18 pm:

    Does MJM understand we’re talking about 25K Patrick Ward’s here–to put it in terms he might appreciate.

  11. - Mason born - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 2:35 pm:

    I voted Yes.

    Those Wages are old bills pay them now.

  12. - downstate hack - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 2:40 pm:

    I voted no appropriation because if MJM opposes it then it will not happen, and I would like to be correct at least once this year.

  13. - Bourbonrich - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 2:44 pm:

    I voted to have a supplemental bill but I do think this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what the State has the money to pay. Either going to be a lot fewer employees, fewer services or lower wages as the State goes forward unless increased revenues are found.

  14. - northstate - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 2:45 pm:

    Pay the back pay it is what is owed.

  15. - Grandson of Man - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 2:46 pm:

    I voted yes, because employees honored their end of the contract and the 7% interest payment should be avoided.

  16. - A guy... - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 2:46 pm:

    Shockingly to some friends here, I voted yes. Pay them. They’re owed and the court confirmed it. More interest isn’t the answer. Give them what they’re owed + the interest for screwing around with it in the first place. And don’t do it again.

  17. - Wheat13 - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 2:50 pm:

    Pay the employees. Judge ruled and now Quinn wants afscam to back him for gov again. That’s the only reason Quinn wants this debt paid.

  18. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 2:54 pm:

    so since I retired last january and the State owes me twelve thousand in back wages plus interest are they going to recalculate my pension payment and also pay me the back pay I have been shorted on it since my retirement? I voted yes, pay-it and save some money instead of paying more!

  19. - Bourbonrich - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 3:02 pm:

    I think both choices pay the employees. The issue is do we add to this year’s budget or do we squeeze the current budget even more.

  20. - Jim'e' - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 3:24 pm:

    As I understand, some departments did find the money for back pay and have paid their workers. In light of the hugh structural deficit the State has departments should be tasked with finding this money within their currently appropriated budgets.

  21. - Johnny - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 3:25 pm:

    So, the question is: If the employees are NOT made whole in the near future, what kind of precedent does that set for future court decisions? At some point, the judge is going to have to actually enforce this somehow. Is this a Constitutional crisis? Right now, the Legislative and Executive Branches are giving the Judicial Brach the middle finger.

  22. - AFSCME Steward - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 3:30 pm:

    Has MJM suddenly become stupid or is he just playing another game ? The money from FY12 requires a supplemental because the fiscal year had already ended and there is no legal authority to pay it, including from budgets provided for FY14. Many agencies did pay FY13 back pay with FY14 funds, but not all received sufficient resources to do so. Any FY12 & FY13 money still owed now requires a supplemental appropriation. This statement by Madigan is really arrogant and over the top.

    “He has said agencies should cover the back wages out of the spending plan approved by lawmakers in May.”

  23. - Joan P. - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 3:32 pm:

    Pay what you owe.

  24. - gallerywalker - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 3:36 pm:

    It is money owed!! The judge ruled in our favor. An agreement is an agreement!! Wasting time is only costing the taxpayers more interest!!

  25. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 3:37 pm:

    I voted yes. People don’t have to like it but it was a signed contract and a court has said that it must be honored. Pay the dang money and move on.

    ==the agencies were given huge lump sum budgets and they can decide to operate the government or hand out raises ==

    Not aware of how the process works are we. Good talking point though.

  26. - Tooyoungtoretire/TooOldtoquit - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 3:47 pm:

    Appropriate the money! The employees have bills to pay too! Mortgages, medical, and kids can’t be put on hold while the politicians play games with peoples livelihoods.

  27. - New rules - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 4:06 pm:

    I suppose if the constitution doesn’t matter when it comes to pensions, why should it matter when it comes to contracts?

    Yeah why should any contract matter?

  28. - Kyle s - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 4:12 pm:

    Yes pay what is owed why wait and make the taxpayer pay 7%

  29. - dupage dan - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 4:19 pm:

    So, we’re talking about raising the debt limit, in a manner of speaking, right? We are talking about a court decision, right?

    I am a state employee - I voted yes, go figure. I have skin in the game.

    For MJM, Brady and others to ignore a court order is outrageous. They passed a law, the court overturned - it’s a done deal. Hey MJM, Quinn passed a law, the court overturned and you won. You got your pay. It works both ways here, buddy.

  30. - dupage dan - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 4:24 pm:

    CFS, Demoralized is right - you appear to have no idea how agencies work. Budget line items can not be ignored. You can’t take funds earmarked for a program and move it to salaries. It is like the capital fund - people get upset that these funds are used to build roads. They will say, “don’t build the road, pay down the pension”.

    Can. Not. Be. Done.

    I checked - it seems you were the only one here who may have voted no. Wow, what courage.

  31. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 4:29 pm:

    ===So, we’re talking about raising the debt limit, in a manner of speaking, right? ===

    No we are not.

    Get your head outta DC.

  32. - Frustrated - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 4:42 pm:

    What is the point of signing contracts if we don’t have to pay them if we don’t like them?. Whether he agrees with it or not, it was negotiated and is a legal contract. If we let this slide what is to stop them from doing this again in the future with employees as well as vendors who have contracts with the state. Wouldn’t you think Mr. Madigan’s daughter, our Attorney General, would have told him contract law overrides opinion! This is a terrible presidence we are allowing! Pay what is owed! This is costing us tax payers more everyday we delay” Absurd. tired of being caught up in the political games we play. Now Quinn’s opponent wants to go on record of doing the opposite of what Quinn wants. State workers didn’t do this and have no control over the money wasted by the state agency….

  33. - dupage dan - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 4:57 pm:

    It was a rhetorical flourish, Rich, meant to highlight the idea that stunts do not equate to leadership. There are hard decisions to be made here. Decisions that affect the lives of human beings. MJM etal are using stunts to shrug off their sworn duty to conduct the state’s business. Much like the stunts that were used in that other place.

  34. - anon - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 5:04 pm:

    the money is laying around–quinn’s directors have found $60 million in GRF and more is OSF funds already–this was an almost $200m liability during the spring session now its been cut in half–use lapse funds in june to pay this expense off.

  35. - tch02 - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 5:04 pm:

    This is a ridiculous game being played by the politicians. Meanwhile, interest continues to accrue at 7%. If I was a legislator, I would have no issues, because I can magically file suit and get a judge to say pay me now! The front-line employees, however, must not only wait while these games are being played, but continue to watch the state spend funds on an abundance of other interests (think capitol redecorating), including lawyers!

  36. - Earl Shumaker - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 5:07 pm:

    Pay the employees what is owed. Don’t these elected officials realize that we have such things as contract law, that we have a judiciary for a reason? Apparently, Brady, Madigan and other elected officials did to take a class in an Introduction to Illinois State Government. I wonder

  37. - titan - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 5:10 pm:

    Are most agencies given line item budgets (as opposed to lump sum amounts) and restricted to spending the amounts within the specific line items?

    On that basis, isn’t a prior appropriation a legal requiremnt to paying?

  38. - Belle - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 5:14 pm:

    Pay them, you owe them, it’s been to court once, why go back again.
    Begin a new trend of paying bills that are owed by the State.

  39. - Johnnie F. - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 5:49 pm:

    To what date is the 7% owed??

  40. - Local Prez - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 5:55 pm:

    Let us not forget that all state union employees agreed to put of receiving negotiated wages to help the state out when they came to the Union and asked us to assist them in cost savings. Plus the millions saved when our members proposed several other cost saving measures for the State of Illinois. The time has come that the leaders of this state do the right thing. Pay the back wages owed, and lets move on to doing the work that we need to do.

  41. - Just The Way It Is One - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 6:40 pm:

    It’s their money, their livelihood, and they’ve earned it. Not to approve it is petty politics at its worst…!

  42. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 6:45 pm:

    Honor the agreement you signed. Union workers agreed to a contract, now the State of Illinois should do their part and pay the back pay owed to all employees.

  43. - The Whole Truth - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 7:01 pm:

    The back pay is paid with either option offered. I say let the agencies pay for it out of their own budgets. From what I’ve seen first hand, there is enough belt tightening and better management that can and should be done within State agencies to pay what is owed.

  44. - Boozebuster - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 7:09 pm:

    Simply stated, the state employees earned it and the contract promised it! They should be paid per the agreement.

  45. - The Whole Truth - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 7:17 pm:

    The vote is how the wages should be paid, not if.

  46. - state retired - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 7:38 pm:

    I’m retired now but still owed the back wages. But at the 7 percent interest the judge ordered the state to pay in addition to what’s owed I say take your sweet time Illinois that’s twice my COLA. You can’t fix stupid.

  47. - Anon. - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 7:47 pm:

    I voted no, because there is already enough money to pay them. Let them go back to court and get the judge to order the agencies to fulfill their contractual obligations, even though it will mean not paying the directors, assistant directors, deputy directors, assistant deputy to the assistant directors, etc., who do not have a contractual right to continue working and being paid.

  48. - The People - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 8:07 pm:

    One way for the state agencies to use money already allocated by the legislature is to eliminate CMS. CMS charges each agency for every computer in use, software license in use, and vehicle lease. CMS also charges for technical support for the leased computers. The elimination of the political appointees salary and benefits that run CMS would also help pay down old bills.

  49. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 8:31 pm:

    ==The vote is how the wages should be paid, not if.==

    Agencies don’t have an extra $100 million lying around. Some of you need a primer on the budget.

  50. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 8:32 pm:

    @Anon 7:47:

    I seriously hope you were joking.

  51. - RNUG - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 8:34 pm:

    Not sure this would work but I think there is a third possibility that may have been overlooked. Every employee who is owed back salary should go to the Illinois Court of Claims and file their claim as a lapsed FY13 debt. Given the prior ruling, the Court of Claims should have to acknowledge the claim as valid and order the bill paid by the agency, presumably with any FY13 lapse funds. Wouldn’t be pretty because it would completely overwhelm the system, but might be a way to get paid …

  52. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 8:43 pm:


    Good thought but I think salaries are a different issue. There is a separate back wage claim process that I think must be followed. I’m not sure you can file wage claims with the Court of Claims. Something to look into though.

  53. - jimbo26 - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 8:50 pm:

    A contract is a contract.

  54. - The Whole Truth - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 9:06 pm:

    Demoralized 8:31:
    Having first hand knowledge of one state agency and close contact with several others, I believe there is room for 5%-10% of each agency’s budget to be earmarked for the raises. There would be a hue and cry, but it is possible. Start with the state vehicles being driven home and for personal use and the padded overtime cards. Baseline budgeting being what it is, if each agency merely maintained the previous FY’s budget, the money is there. That’s the type of approach directors and managers know they should and can take, but the leadership to do so has to come from PQ and the Legislature. So far, that hasn’t happened.

  55. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 9:07 pm:

    Back pay is an OLD bill!!

  56. - dr. smooth - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 9:58 pm:

    state employees work a dangerous job everyday not just two or three days out of the week. walk into any prison, and you gather 100 inmates in one place and it is guaranteed that 98 of them have a shank and we have nothing but a radio, now you tell me how would you feel if that was your WIFE! Pay us!

  57. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 10:15 pm:

    Pay the employees the money they are due. If over the years Madigan wouldn’t have been so worried about padding his cronies pocket and his we would have the money. It’s time for him to go he has way to much power and has been abusing it for years.

  58. - RNUG - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 10:25 pm:

    Demoralized @ 8:43 pm:

    According to the 2011 Court of Claims Rules, p7:

    Summary of Jurisdiction

    The Court has exclusive jurisdiction in the following matters:

    2. All contract claims against the State.


    There may be other overriding statute but that statement seems pretty clear. And doesn’t the back pay claim result from a contract?

    It’s not mandatory but you will probably have to have a lawyer and you are supposed to exhaust all other remedies first … don’t know and couldn’t guess how the Court would view the current status. The court will probably take a dim view of 10,000 employees filing and burying them when the court usually only handles 8,500 cases a year. And there would be a fair amount of cost involved to file the paperwork … but it might be a way to get the previous judgement enforced if you can get past the exhaust remedies restrictions.

  59. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 10:45 pm:

    =I believe there is room for 5%-10% of each agency’s budget to be earmarked for the raises==

    I’ve been doing this for 16 years and still do and I can tell you that no agency has 5% or 10% of their budget to earmark for this and even if they did they couldn’t do it on their own. They would still need legislative approval to move the money around. If somebody told me that I needed to come up with the money some of these agencies need to come up with to pay these back raises I would ask them which rock they wanted me to look under. Might be possible in some agencies but I guarantee you in the large ones they don’t have tens of millions of dollars lying around for this.

  60. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 10:48 pm:


    I’m sure there are employees out there that would be interested in your approach. I would actually be interested in somebody trying it just to see what happened.

  61. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 10:50 pm:

    @The Whole Truth:

    Let me be clear that I think there are always places to find money but I just don’t think there are enough places to find this amount of money.

  62. - RNUG - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 10:57 pm:

    plus it would be a ‘civilian’ making the claim

  63. - The Whole Truth - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 7:57 am:

    Demoralized 10:45PM:
    The 5%-10% isn’t just lying around…as I said, there would be a hue and cry. However, the U of I recently spent $70M+ to renovate Lincoln Hall in a “historically accurate” manner. Not because of any structual reason, but because the administration wanted to preserve the ambiance. Nice job, but not a wise use of funds given today’s situation. Couple that with the recent Capitol renovations, and the $100M could have been found very easily. Looking at only the personnel line items, many employees are boosting their salary 10%-20% and more….from what I saw, a big part of that is being “padded”. It would vary from agency to agency, but the fat (mismanagement) is there.

  64. - Anon. - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 8:24 am:

    ==@Anon 7:47:

    I seriously hope you were joking.==

    Not really. I expect that before it came to laying off at-will employees, there would be a supplemental appropriation. I was pointing out that the claim that there was not enough money to pay the raises is wrong if the appropriated amount is greater than the total owed, and that you cannot get out of contractual obligations by arguing that paying your debts won’t leave you with enough money for discretionary expenditures. If they want to keep at-will employees on, but don’t have enough money to pay them without breaching their contracts to union employees, they have to pay the contractual obligations firat and appropriate additional money to pay the at-will employees. They could also lay off union employees, following the contractual requirements of course, but you can’t just abridge a contract.

  65. - led hed - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 8:26 am:

    If a judge ruled it should be paid, then the law has spoken. What needs to be pointed out in the press is the fact that in the spring session, there was a bill to pay the back wages that was 44-48 million dollars, depending on what you were reading. It was widely believed there were enough bipartisan votes in both houses to pass it, but a certain speaker of the house blocked it from being introduced. Six months later, it’s going to take a 112 million to pay what’s owed. If my math is right, one certain speaker just cost the taxpayers of this state app. 66 million dollars. Will he be held accountable in a criminal or civil court? Will he face impeachment? Shouldn’t the state’s attorney general’s office take action against this person? Or is there a conflict of interest existing here…..?

  66. - ??? - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 8:56 am:

    AFSCME Steward brings up an interesting point. I’m not sure, but I believe he’s right - there is no authority in the current budget to pay back wages owed from FY12. A supplemental appropriation might be the only option.

  67. - The old dad - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 4:09 pm:

    Pay it because it the right thing to do!
    Lead by example and do the right thing! Honor the judges decision.

  68. - bearsfan - Friday, Nov 1, 13 @ 8:49 am:

    when the politicians had to go without their pay they resolved it pretty quick.I risked my life everyday doing my job so pay me.It is the right thing to do.

  69. - redraider - Friday, Nov 1, 13 @ 12:08 pm:

    I love the comments that it should be paid out of agency budgets. If paid out of their budgets they will not have the tools needed to do their jobs. In prisons you “smart guys” expect employees to pick either safety or their back pay. Classy thought. (AfSCAM) More intelligent thought from the union busters.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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* PODCAST: Celestina Savonius-Wroth, U of I Library
* Ex-Rockets: Relish experience
* Arcola's Hutton takes care of business
* Updated: Danville teen killed, 3 hurt, in Indiana crash
* The Health Reporter Is In: Nov. 25, 2015
* Danville teen killed, 3 hurt, in Indiana crash
* Man pulled from parked car, robbed in Urbana
* 11-25-15 Dr. Tom Ramage, President of @ParklandCollege
* 11-25-15 Penny for Your Thoughts
* PODCAST: Groce previews UAB

* Steelers' Todman another ex-Panther hoping for a chance
* Settlement coming in District 211 transgender case?
* Falcons not overly concerned by QB Matt Ryan's recent slump
* How to watch Libertyville High football team's title game
* Pierre-Paul just happy to be alive after fireworks accident

* House lawmakers overcome hurdle on key tra...
* Rodney Davis talks funding with Bloomingto...
* The agency that fought Illiana gets a new ...
* Rep. Dold takes educational cruise down Ch...
* Lawmakers decry high turnover rate of VA h...
* CBD Oil, and politics
* Simon considering state Senate bid
* Killer Congressman Tom MacArthur trying to...
* Shutdown? State may not notice
* Rep. Bob Dold

* Nebraska ethanol producers name former Dur......

* Kirk co-authors Government Transformation ......

* Random thoughts.
* Prosecutors drop charges against Malcolm London.
* Lawless: The Obama Administration’s Unprecedented Assault on the Constitution and the Rule of Law
* Thanksgiving by the numbers
* IAR offices closed Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving holiday
* Charter expansion. Where is the IEA?
* Courtenay School Clothing & Toy Drive Underway
* Jail killer cops. Not Poets. #FreeMalcolmLondon
* Jay Michael's Cancer Journey, Part V
* Heartland to help two charities in December

* Emergency Management Officials, National Weather Service Encourage Winter Preparedness - November is Winter Weather Preparedness Month in Illinois
* Keep Your Family Safe This Winter - November through February are leading months for carbon monoxide related incidents
* Governor Takes Bill Action
* Illinois Department of Labor Director Hugo Chaviano Awards Governor’s Award for Contributions in Health and Safety to the Illinois Refining Division of Marathon Petroleum Company LP
* State Regulator Elected Treasurer of Interstate Medical Licensure Compact

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