SPRINGFIELD — Although University of Illinois officials say the system’s legal team is still studying the matter, a source in the Illinois Attorney General’s Office said a lawsuit seeking to prevent state workers from being paid without an approved budget would not affect university employees.
“They are not included in this because they are paid by the university,” said an official in the attorney general’s office.
But UI spokesman Tom Hardy said the university system’s legal office is reviewing Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s request, filed in St. Clair County Circuit Court, to stop paying state workers’ salaries until legislators and Gov. Bruce Rauner work out a spending plan to end an 18-month budget impasse.
“The U of I system legal office is reviewing the attorney general’s motion and the procedural history of the case to examine how this might impact the U of I,” Hardy said.
The motion filed Thursday asks the St. Clair County Circuit Court to dissolve by Feb. 28 a preliminary injunction that has allowed state workers to be paid even though the Legislature and governor haven’t approved a spending plan.
A six-month “stopgap” budget approved last summer expired on Jan. 1, and, for now, UI employees are being paid out of university funds, not state appropriations.
Madigan’s surprise legal motion was criticized both by employee unions and other state officials.
“Despite all the chaos in state government in the past two years, the people of Illinois have been able to count on state employees being on the job to serve them,” said Anders Lindall of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31. “The last thing Illinois needs is the further instability that blocking state payroll could cause.”
Rauner said he was “deeply disappointed, very upset” by Madigan’s move.
“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,” the governor said in Chicago.
Senate President John Cullerton of Chicago and Minority Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont — the Senate leaders who have been negotiating a “grand bargain,” including a budget and a number of other major issues — were more measured in their remarks.
“The Legislature has been involved in very public, delicate negotiations. The timing of this action could create an unnecessary crisis that could derail real compromise,” Radogno said.
“The Senate president has said that there is an urgent need to have a budget and this would appear to add to that sense of urgency,” said Cullerton spokesman John Patterson.