St. Clair County Circuit Court Judge Robert LeChien has denied a motion from Attorney General Lisa Madigan to dissolve an injunction that has sustained the state payroll for 20 months.
At a hearing on Feb. 16, LeChien rejected Madigan's argument that his injunction provides an excuse for Gov. Bruce Rauner and the General Assembly to shirk their constitutional duty to appropriate money for the payroll
Madigan pledged in a statement to appeal the decision.
Stephen Yokich, of Chicago, representing the American Federation of State, County, Municipal Employees, successfully argued that Rauner and legislators incorporated the injunction into a stop gap budget that Rauner signed last year.
Madigan assistant Brett Legner pleaded that a recent decision of the Illinois Supreme Court required a specific appropriation for the payroll.
But Lechien ruled that the case before him is different from the one before the Supreme Court. He entered the injunction in June 2015 as the state's contract with its unions expired.
Madigan sought to represent former state comptroller Leslie Munger in those proceedings, but LeChien ruled that Munger could retain special counsel. Munger did not impose the injuction.
Rauner and the unions then adpted a tolling agreement to preserve a status quo of the old contracts until they executed new contracts or reached an impasse.
This January, Madigan moved to intervene in the case so she could file a motion to dissolve the injunction. She asked LeChien to disolve it on Feb. 28, giving Rauner and legislators time to enact appropriations.
Rauner, the unions, and current comptroller Susana Mendoza opposed the motion pleading that it would shut down the government.
LeChien granted intervention to Madigan at the hearing and allowed Legner to argue on her behalf.
"The entire government will not shut down," he said. "Over $3 billion of unappropriated funds have been spent. It is time to return the appropriation power to the place where the constitution located it."
Yokich compared budget negotiations to a game of chicken between two cars.
"The attorny general wants to strap everybody's feet to the accelerator and hope that something good happens," Yokich said.
He said the general assembly sanctioned the injuctions in the stop gap budget bill, which declared that it did not supercede any court order.
"Sometimes one branch of government has to step in when the other two are stuck," he said.
Yokich also said the budget disputes continue even though "we have had terrible harm to our universities and terrible harm to our social safety net."
Legner said that the general assembly didn't sanction LeChien's injunction. LeChien disagreed.
"They adopted a court order as their means of proceedings," LeChien said.
The question of whether sides have reached an impasse remains open in various courts.