* SJ-R editorial on Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s legal filing on state worker pay…
What’s inexcusably wrong is the timing. Madigan said with a new legislative session underway, it was the appropriate time to ask the court to reconsider. She’s asked the court to terminate the injunction on Feb. 28, giving a firm deadline and restoring urgency to get the almost 19-month-old budget impasse resolved.
That argument could hold water - if there had been no substantive recent action on a budget. And while legislators have appeared blind to it, urgency has been a part of this impasse since day one. Just ask any of the vendors waiting for the 141,225 unpaid bills, worth a collective $10.7 billion, to be processed by the state. Or talk to one of the nearly 1 million people throughout Illinois who didn’t get help they needed during the fiscal year where there wasn’t a budget, according to United Way estimates.
Those vendors and clients had reason for hope recently because there were honest efforts at compromise in the Senate, where President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, and Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, have diligently worked together for the past month on a bipartisan budget package. Gov. Bruce Rauner gave his sincere thanks during his State of the State address Wednesday, and implored them to keep working on an agreement.
Lawmakers were finally putting people before politics. The tone of the conversation was slowly changing as politicians together sought solutions. The budget package lit a flame under lawmakers that was intensifying on its own as senators debated and amended the proposal in attempts to improve the plan. Madigan’s actions Thursday added unneeded fuel to that fire: A glance at the statements from the usual political players shows the tentative bridges that had started being built could now come tumbling down. […]
Madigan’s action was the antithesis of the collaboration the state had started to see. If this lone-wolf action slows the momentum that had started and reverts the Capitol to shouting over who is most to blame instead of reaching a budget compromise, Illinois residents will continue to be the ones who suffer.
* The Belleville News-Democrat was far more direct…
If this were a board game, you would have quit long ago because there was no way to win at “Illinopoly.”
“At a meeting I attended just this morning, a comment was made that, ‘as soon as deals in Illinois are close to done, someone always tries to blow it up,’” said state Rep. Avery Bourne, a Republican from the Litchfield area.
The Illinois Senate seems on the verge of hammering out a budget deal with some of the reforms insisted on by a governor who refuses to continue monkey business as usual. Here comes Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, daughter of the game master, who wakes up after 18 months to decide, “Hey. We shouldn’t be paying state workers without a budget. I’ll sue.”
* Mark Brown…
If anything, I question why the attorney general didn’t push this issue sooner, which, by the way, is totally consistent with her legal defense of Rauner’s failure to pay social service providers.
At this point, it doesn’t matter. This is the right move.
I don’t want to see state workers go unpaid. I want the state to come up with a budget.
Amid the howls in reaction to the attorney general’s move were complaints the added pressure could disrupt ongoing talks by Illinois Senate leaders, who have provided the first glimmer of hope in a while that a resolution is possible.
Sorry, everyone needs to feel that pressure.
When Senate President John Cullerton and Republican Leader Christine Radogno visited our offices a week ago to tout their proposed deal, they both made it clear a budget needs to be approved now, not months from now. […]
In that light, I don’t see anything unreasonable about Madigan asking a judge to set a Feb. 28 date for wrapping up a budget before stopping state workers pay. The judge could also set a later date.
The important point is that we don’t let this continue indefinitely.
On Thursday, Attorney General Lisa Madigan set the wheels in motion for tens of thousands of state workers to stop being paid if a state budget is not approved by Feb. 28. Effectively, that would mean a government shutdown. Madigan did so, she explained, to create overwhelming pressure on the state Legislature and Gov. Bruce Rauner to finally cut a deal.
Here’s our problem with that: Working people once again are being treated like pawns in a game of power by politicians who will never have to worry about living paycheck to paycheck. If Madigan’s gambit does not work, they will pay the price. And we can’t be sure of her motives. Maybe she’s the most honest of brokers, just trying to force an end to the budget impasse. Or maybe she’s working an angle with the Speaker of the Illinois House, Michael J. Madigan, who happens to be her father.
Lisa Madigan will object to that charge. She has worked hard over the years to show she runs her office independent of her father, and there is no evidence she’s doing his bidding now. But there also is no escaping the bad optics. Given that the Speaker and attorney general are father and daughter, skeptics will always suspect a tag team. And Lisa Madigan’s latest legal maneuver is giving her father’s number-one foe, Rauner, fits. A government shutdown threatens much of Rauner’s leverage to force pro-business reforms as part of a budget package.
Nonetheless, Attorney General Madigan appears to be on firm legal ground — and that means the clock is ticking. If a budget agreement is not reached, state workers may not get paid beginning in March.
* Greg Hinz…
Now, Team Rauner is of the opinion that Madigan acted now because her father doesn’t like the grand budget deal the heads of the Senate, President John Cullerton and Republican Leader Christine Radogno, are trying to push through against tough odds. Speaker Madigan wants to do as little as possible until 2018, hoping to unseat Rauner in that year’s election, they suggest.
That may be true. On the other hand, some top Democrats believe Rauner is trying to sandbag the deal.
And some folks believe Lisa Madigan’s move could boost pressure on lawmakers to finally act. “It’s a gentle nudge to get something done,” says one well-connected business lobbyist.
I don’t know. What I do know is that, as a matter of good public policy, Lisa Madigan’s action is appropriate. Tardy, but appropriate.
If lawmakers continue to squabble and paychecks are halted, voters will be furious and take it out on somebody. Good. They should.
And maybe the fear of that finally will get us a budget.