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Judges Say State Doesn't Have To Pay Social Service Agencies During Budget Gridlock


Illinois’ struggling social-service agencies lost another round in court Thursday.

An appellate panel in Chicago said Illinois does not have to pay unless the state has a real budget. A three-judge panel unanimously rejected all of the human service providers' claims.

They tried to say Gov. Bruce Rauner exceeded his authority by signing contracts for their work, and then turning around and vetoing money out of the budget to pay them.

But the court rejected that, and said the way the governor and General Assembly have been handling budget bills is within their constitutional rights.

The coalition says it’s disappointed, and urged social service agencies to think carefully before signing contracts for the new fiscal year that begins July 1.

Andrea Durbin, leader of the coalition, said Illinois knows what it’s doing.

“What they’re doing is they’re banking on — in the most cynical way — they’re banking on the fact that we give a damn," she said, "and we won’t turn our backs on these clients, we won’t shove them out into the streets, that we won’t lay off our employees until it’s impossible for us to do anything else."

She claimed the failure to pass a budget already has led to programs closing, staff layoffs, and exhausted credit lines. The state countered that courts should not force payments, despite the same judge doing this for state employees during the impasse.

They still have another, similar case pending Downstate — and could appeal the Chicago loss up to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
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