Illinois high court asked to rule on state worker paychecks

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Illinois’ attorney general asked the state supreme court on Monday to resolve just what the state can fund as the Democrat-controlled legislature and Republican governor remain at odds over a budget for the fiscal year that began July 1.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed an emergency motion asking the high court to take up conflicting lower-court orders dealing with state worker paychecks in the absence of an enacted fiscal 2016 budget.

“The court can provide important guidance on what the constitution allows when the governor and Legislature have failed to act,” a statement from the attorney general’s office said.

Earlier on Monday, Illinois Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger announced that her office has processed payroll for Wednesday’s pay day in the wake of last week’s order by a St. Clair County Circuit Court judge giving her office the green light to pay all state workers on time and in full.

That court decision conflicted with a prior Cook County Circuit Court ruling that allowed only for federal minimum wage payments to certain state workers as required under the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act. Munger’s office had argued it was unfeasible to meet that requirement given Illinois’ antiquated computer systems and that the state could face stiff federal penalties for noncompliance.

Reaction to Madigan’s filing was not immediately available from Munger’s office.

Paying workers would relieve some of the pressure on lawmakers and Governor Bruce Rauner to agree on a fiscal 2016 budget. The Illinois Senate will be back in session on Tuesday to take up a $2.26 billion, one-month budget and payroll bill passed by the House last week.

Rauner, who vetoed a $36 billion full-year budget passed by Democrats, has said he opposes their temporary budget as well.

(Reporting by Karen Pierog; Editing by Leslie Adler and Dan Grebler)

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