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Constitution, schmonstitution

Wednesday, Aug 8, 2007

* The governor and AFSCME claim that state and federal law require the comptroller to issue pay checks to state workers even if no budget exists. They didn’t actually cite any specific statutes, however, and the state’s Constitution is pretty specific

The General Assembly by law shall make appropriations for all expenditures of public funds by the State.

* The Daily Herald got a bit sarcastic about the situation…

Budget? We ain’t got no budget. We don’t need no budget.

That, with all apologies to the Treasure of the Sierra Madre, sums up Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s view on whether state spending should continue even though Illinois has no budget.

On Tuesday, Blagojevich suggested state Comptroller Dan Hynes keep writing checks regardless of the budget situation, saying the state continues to collect money and it should all work out in the end.

“Refusing to pay state employees for their hard work is tantamount to shutting state government down,” Blagojevich said in a letter to Hynes.

But Hynes, the Chicago Democrat elected to keep watch on the state’s checkbook, begs to differ.

He said the governor is playing politics with people’s paychecks and lives and needs to stop. And he strongly questioned the soundness of the governor’s belief that a budget isn’t needed to make payroll.

“Keep in mind, he’s the one who admitted himself he got a C in constitutional law and brags about it,” Hynes told downstate WICS-TV. “So, I’m not sure his opinion is the one that’s going to rule the day.”

* The State Journal-Register, which often advocates for state employees, also parted ways on the issue…

A new wrinkle in the state budget developed Tuesday. It turns out we don’t need one. […]

The state constitution requires a budget. There is a lot of wisdom in following that constitution rather than making up rules on the fly because the General Assembly and governor could not get their acts together enough to abide by state law.

The better solution here is not to skirt state law but for state officials to do their jobs. […]

If [Hynes] doesn’t cut checks, even if he doesn’t believe he has the legal authority to do so, then he becomes the fall guy. At least it appears that’s what Blagojevich would like.

Exactly right. For the governor, at least, this is about shifting blame for the lack of a budget.

* Lisa Madigan was asked her opinion yesterday…

[Attorney General Madigan] declined to issue an opinion but forwarded to Hynes a state appeals court ruling on a 1991 AFSCME lawsuit that sought to force Comptroller Dawn Clark Netsch to issue paychecks during a budget impasse.

The court held Netsch had no authority to do that, and a Hynes aide said that would be the basis for the comptroller not to distribute paychecks during the stalemate.

* So, why did AG Madigan refuse to issue an opinion?

a spokeswoman said the attorney general would not issue an opinion because of AFSCME’s threat of a lawsuit.

* But the hooplah is a bit overblown on both sides…

The first group of state employees to miss checks would be those paid on the 15th and last days of each month. Hynes said last week he needed to begin processing those payments today. Schools receive their state money on the 10th and 20th of the month.

Another group of state employees would normally receive their paychecks Aug. 22, Lindall said. They include employees of the Illinois State Police and the Department of Central Management Services, he said.

In other words, today is the day that Hynes would normally begin processing pay checks. He could probably set up a contingency plan to process them now and issue them as soon as a budget deal was reached. Compromise would be nice.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

20 Comments
  1. - Squideshi - Wednesday, Aug 8, 07 @ 9:40 am:

    Federal law trumps the Illinois Constitution. In addition, a strict reading of that provision could be construed to suggest that it would be the General Assembly in violation of the provision, for failing to pass a budget for the expenditure, rather than the Comptroller for making an expenditure required by Federal law; however, it should also be noted that the provision does not say by what time the General Assembly shall make an appropriation, so that could be a loophole.


  2. - Flip Flop - Wednesday, Aug 8, 07 @ 9:42 am:

    Not to worry, the Governor’s opinion will change once he realizes that making payments undercuts his latest negotiating positions. Paying employees and state creditors will then become some Republican plot to undermine the Constitution.


  3. - dc - Wednesday, Aug 8, 07 @ 9:50 am:

    Governor Glamour Shots would blame a compass for pointing north, so this is nothing new. Fortunately, Hynes has the courage and the viriity to call the Governor to the carpet on this. The Governor should try “recalling” the oath he took when he was inaugurated…”I swear to uphold the Constitution…”


  4. - Siyotanka - Wednesday, Aug 8, 07 @ 10:29 am:

    Damn the Constitution…full paychecks ahead!


  5. - Rebel13 - Wednesday, Aug 8, 07 @ 10:42 am:

    If they are forced to pay for time worked, (Federal Law), over the fact that they have to have a budget, (State Constitution)then they will have no choice but to then shut the government down.

    That is the only way they can follow both laws.


  6. - dc - Wednesday, Aug 8, 07 @ 11:15 am:

    There’s been a lot of talk of federal laws taking precedent but no one has clearly demonstrated (at least publicly) that this “federal law” is applicable to sovereign states. I would suspect that the federal law was designed for private employers, not governmental entities. Rich, have you seen any clarification on this?


  7. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Aug 8, 07 @ 11:44 am:

    dc, not yet.


  8. - cermak_rd - Wednesday, Aug 8, 07 @ 12:08 pm:

    Lisa Madigan would seem to have offered an opinion by forwarding the relevant case law to the Comptroller’s office. Given that state court precedent, unless something has changed since then, it would seem the the Comptroller is correct in his actions.


  9. - Crimefighter - Wednesday, Aug 8, 07 @ 1:15 pm:

    Blago is telling Haines to violate the state constitution by sending out checks without a budget.

    http://www.illinois.gov/
    publicincludes/statehome/
    documents/GovernorLetter080807.pdf


  10. - Captain America - Wednesday, Aug 8, 07 @ 1:37 pm:

    This sitatuion reminds me of a quote attributed to our Presdnet several years ago (Doug Thompson, Capital Hill Blue):

    “The Constitution’s just a “darned” piece of paper. It’s another interesting parallel between the President and our Governor. Ignorance is bliss I guess, when a governmantal chief executive wants to do something that appears to be illegal. Maybe the Governor can borrow Alberto Gonzales to legally rationalize his actions.


  11. - Squideshi - Wednesday, Aug 8, 07 @ 2:02 pm:

    The Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution has been interpreted to mean that federal law preempts state law (statutory or constitutional) subject to the obvious requirements of the 5th Amendment, 10th Amendment, etc. That’s basic law.


  12. - Concerned Voter - Wednesday, Aug 8, 07 @ 2:25 pm:

    Text from the Governor’s Letter to Comptroller Hynes:
    “Furthermore, refusing to pay state employees could increase the State’s liability. As you know, AFSCME Council 31 has already threatened legal action if employees of the State are not paid in a timely way for their work. AFSCME points out the State of California was twice ordered by federal courts to promptly pay employees their wages at the time payroll checks should have been issued. In the second such occurrence, a federal court awarded liquidated damages against the State for failing to recognize its obligations to pay its employees without court intervention. Why would you put Illinois and its employees in similar jeopardy?”

    First, I like in the first sentence how he talks about increasing the state’s liability. Well, if he could put his ego aside and actually negotiate with the legislature, we might already have a budget by now and not be at this point.

    Second, the last sentence, why would Hynes put the state and the employees in jeopardy, again if he could put his ego aside and actually negotiate with the legislature, we might already have a budget by now and not be at this point.

    I love how he wants all the credit for anything that appears to be positive, yet wants to pass the blame to others in negative situations.

    So, when can we start the anybody but Rod campaign fund for the next election?


  13. - Anon - Wednesday, Aug 8, 07 @ 3:12 pm:

    I don’t see how Rich could read the SJ-R regularly and claim the paper often advocates for State employees. They have an editorial every few weeks advocating for slashing their pension benefits?


  14. - Cogito - Wednesday, Aug 8, 07 @ 4:19 pm:

    If the union were really concerned they could simply have their members go home. As I understand it, the Governor has asked them to continue working in promise of future pay, and they have by their actions agreed.


  15. - steve schnorf - Wednesday, Aug 8, 07 @ 5:31 pm:

    Unless things have changed in the last few years, generally federal wage and hour laws apply to state employees. As to AG Madigan’s response that is not an opinion, she doesn’t want to get trick-bagged again on whether she can fairly represent the State in a potential lawsuit, I assume.


  16. - Disgusted - Wednesday, Aug 8, 07 @ 5:50 pm:

    State employees who are union members aren’t choosing to work for free. They have a no-strike/no walk-out clause in their contract. Big, big mistake from their last negotiations. If they leave, they will be fired.


  17. - Anon state employee - Wednesday, Aug 8, 07 @ 7:39 pm:

    The SJ-R article is wrong, some state employees get their checks on the 10th for 2nd half of previous month. These will be late based on no budget being in place today.


  18. - Tessa - Wednesday, Aug 8, 07 @ 8:31 pm:

    I, as a state employee, at a 24 hour facility and not a prison, would like to clarify that we could not in good conscience NOT come to work. Regardless of what the contract says the people we are paid to support have to have people at work to provide needed supports to them. We have to be there 24 hours a day. To not be there would be negligible on our part. We should be paid for the work we do. That’s the part that, for lack of a better word, sucks. We’re in a no win situation. If they don’t pass a budget we get no pay, but we still have to show up at work. Every here can sit and complain about how the legislators aren’t getting their jobs done, but we are suffering the consequences. We’re in limbo. I would never abandon my post. I don’t know any co-worker who would, but we nervously sit day by day watching the negotiations occur, wondering what’s going to happen.

    None of us wants to get a 0% loan that we’ll have to pay back in full in 30 days. That does us no good.

    I’m a union supporter, but I don’t feel like I’m being supported by anyone right now.


  19. - Retired IDOT Teamster - Wednesday, Aug 8, 07 @ 9:26 pm:

    Where are the Teamsters on this??? I hope they remember this when the next politician Republican or Democrat puts the “BITE” on them for a contribution!!! Vote em all out and start over!!!!


  20. - Slick Willy - Thursday, Aug 9, 07 @ 8:03 am:

    Anon State Employee: Paychecks issued for the 10th are for hours worked the last half of July. There was a budget in place at that point. In short, it is July money. Checks due on the 25th could be delayed due to there not being a budget in place.


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