|The high court's justices chose not to get involved in budget issue -- right now|
That’s about the best way to describe the current situation with regards to Illinois state government – nothing is really resolved, and the political brawling will draw out for as long as Gov. Bruce Rauner and the legislative leaders are so inclined.
FOR THE LEGAL status quo is that there are cases in the courts for Cook and St. Clair (the Illinois suburbs of St. Louis) counties; which have shown a tendency to go in differing directions on the issue.
The state’s high court rejected a request by the Illinois attorney general’s office to immediately get involved and decide which court got the issue right – Cook when it said state workers could only get a federal minimum wage while the budget battle is ongoing, or St. Clair which said labor union contracts mandated payment of pay checks.
So now, the Cook County case will have to be appealed through the legal system to the appellate court in Chicago, while the St. Clair case will work its way through the appellate court in Mount Vernon.
Only then, will the Illinois Supreme Court get involved – although I suspect they’re hoping the two appeals courts wind up coming up with rulings similar enough that there’s no need for the Springfield-based court to get involved.
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THIS ISSUE HAS come up because Rauner wanted state workers to get their salaries even though the Illinois Constitution clearly states that money cannot be spent on anything government-related if the state doesn’t have a balanced budget in place for the current fiscal year.
Because angry state workers would be quick to blame the governor for their lack of receipt of paychecks (or direct deposits into their bank accounts, if they prefer).
That would have given Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and the others in the Democratic Party caucuses that run state government some serious leverage in their desire to prevent Rauner from using his gubernatorial authority to push forth some seriously anti-labor union-related measures.
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Instead, the Supreme Court rejected taking action that would have imposed his desires, and political observers are proclaiming a Rauner “victory” because the courts didn’t dump all over him and the state workers got paid.
BUT ANYTHING IS possible. What happens if these cases work their way through the legal process (instead of being rushed through with an instant political ruling like Madigan wanted) and the Supreme Court ultimately decides that the Illinois Constitution literally means that no money can be spent on government (not even salaries) until a budget is in place?
Do we wind up getting a contempt ruling issued against the governor AND his state comptroller – who was the one who sought the St. Clair court ruling that she ultimately used to have legal authority to make the salary payments?!?
The sad thing is that with the way the political people have dug in their heels over this budget – which really has nothing to do with finances and has become completely about who gets the political upper hand – there’s a chance that the legal process could take its usual meandering pace and there STILL won’t be a budget in place for Illinois government.
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I’ll also have to admit to being disappointed that the state Supreme Court chose not to act on Friday.
BECAUSE THE REALITY is that the only way the state’s budgetary battle is going to be resolved is for some higher entity to administer a swift kick to the behinds of all our government officials.
Consider that Madigan earlier this week said it’s possible that the final budget will not be something negotiated by all the political parties – but is something that gets forced down one side’s throat.
And I doubt that Madigan envisions any scenario in which he is the one who has to swallow something that has the vile taste of anti-labor union attached to it. Even the courts realize that too many people will revolt if something like that happens.