Saturday, July 4, 2015

Will we have a state government ‘shutdown’ where nothing shuts down?

Illinois government employees got paid their salaries on Wednesday knowing it might be a long, long time before they see another paycheck, or direct deposit, made in their names.

RAUNER: Wants workers paid to keep them quiet
People who work on the state payroll get paid twice a month – the 1st and 15th. Wednesday was also the first day of Illinois’ 2016 fiscal year.

THAT MAKES THE money state workers received on Wednesday for work done the second half of June, or the end of Fiscal 2015.

Because that is off the old state budget, they can be paid without conflict. The next pay check will be for work done during Fiscal 2016 – which is a problem because the budget for that fiscal period has yet to be set.

In accordance with the Illinois Constitution, government cannot spend money if it hasn’t been specifically appropriated. Which is why things are a mess this year – Gov. Bruce Rauner and the General Assembly’s leaders are stuck in a disagreement over the budget that has little to do with financial matters.

It’s all about partisan politics and ideology and the desire by each to make the other squirm and whimper like a little school girl.

ALTHOUGH I HONESTLY suspect that analogy is gross because the average little school girl probably shows more maturity and sense than our state’s political people these days.

On this issue, state officials argued in Cook County Circuit Court earlier this week, and a judge is expected to rule come Tuesday on what exactly can, and cannot, be paid by state government during this interlude when there is no set budget.

MADIGAN: No signs of compromise
Rauner and his legal advisers want to believe they can keep making the state payroll in full on the grounds that money still comes into state government. It’s there – it just hasn’t been appropriated yet.

Although the traditional interpretation of needing an appropriation before money can be spent would also impact the payroll – just as it has in past years when there has been a budgetary stalemate. Long-time state employees know to keep a little extra money in the bank come the beginning of summer; on the off-chance that they’d miss a pay-day or two.

BUT RAUNER KNOWS that if state workers miss a paycheck come July 15, they’re going to be fickle enough to shift blame for this whole mess to him. They’ll turn on him so quickly – and he’ll be the one who winds up at the mercy of Mike Madigan & Co.

MADIGAN: Acts could benefit her dad
Because the reason we have a stalemate is because Rauner is refusing to consider figuring out how to fill the financial shortfall that exists in the budget UNTIL some of his ideologically-motivated desires get enacted into law.

Which is a tactic I wouldn’t object to so much (I’d be bothered by his issues, but he has a right to tout them) if it were still April or May and we had the General Assembly and governor trying to reach a deal.

But that time has passed. We’re now at the point where officials need to concoct a budget agreement so that government can operate and fulfill its obligations to the people of Illinois. As for what those obligations can be, that’s a debate for another day.

SO WE’LL HAVE to see if the Cook County courts wind up issuing the ruling that restricts the amount of payroll that can be met while the political people engage in their equivalent of a street fight over who controls state government.

I’d compare it to “West Side Story,” except I suspect that neither Rauner nor Madigan nor Illinois state Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, can dance worth squat. Nor do I think Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is comparable to Maria (nor Natalie Wood).

Will Rauner have to squirm this holiday weekend (while marching in that parade  Saturday in suburban Arlington Heights), wondering if the courts hold him to the letter of the law concerning state spending, rather than let him pay off some people to buy their political good will with state funds?

I kind of hope they do. Because ultimately, this problem won’t get resolved until our state officials quit thinking in terms of how they “win” and instead focus on how to balance the budget – which is how we, the people of Illinois, will “win.”


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