Quinn asks lawmakers for additional money

2013-10-26T00:00:00Z Quinn asks lawmakers for additional moneyKurt Erickson Lee Springfield Bureau nwitimes.com
October 26, 2013 12:00 am  • 

SPRINGFIELD | The Quinn administration is asking Illinois lawmakers to approve an extra $221 million in spending, saying the cash is needed to finish out the remainder of the fiscal year.

Among the requests contained in a draft obtained by the Lee Enterprises Springfield bureau is $112 million to pay back wages owed to about 25,000 state workers.

Quinn last year refused to pay raises owed to workers under the state’s old labor contract, arguing the General Assembly failed to insert the money in the previous budget.

But, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 — the state’s largest employee union — won a reprieve in court affecting employees in five state agencies.

State Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, introduced legislation that would restore the raises and award the workers 7 percent interest to make up for the delay.

The status of that proposal remains unclear.

A spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said members of the House approved the budget in May believing that any additional money that flows into the state’s coffers would be used to pay down old bills.

“At this point there is no consensus on what will be done on this topic,” spokesman Steve Brown said.

AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall said the unpaid wages qualify as old bills.

“Businesses, health care and not-for-profit service providers are waiting about six months today (to be paid.) State employees have waited more than two years,” Lindall said.

In addition, Lindall said lawmakers who were denied their paychecks when Quinn vetoed money for their salaries earlier this year received their back pay in a matter of hours after a judge ruled the governor’s actions were unconstitutional.

“We hope there is a newfound appreciation for paying front-line employees what they are owed,” Lindall said.

In addition to the back pay for workers, the document shows Quinn has requested an extra $40.5 million for the Illinois Department of Corrections, which would cover, among other items, a $12 million judgment with a former inmate who suffered brain damage after not getting medication for epilepsy.

A federal jury awarded Raymond Fox the money in January after his attorneys demonstrated that Illinois prison officials were aware of the risks associated with denying him medication.

A spokesman for Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget office said the request for Corrections also would recover a $25 million hit the agency took in the budget approved earlier this year.

The extra money to operate the agency comes a year after Quinn moved to close prisons in Tamms and Dwight, as well as halfway houses in Carbondale and Decatur.

Abdon Pallasch, deputy director of the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, said the savings from those closures wouldn’t have covered this year’s shortfall.

“The DOC budget would have been more than $65 million higher had Dwight and Tamms not been closed,” Pallasch noted in an statement.

Lawmakers heard details about some of the requests last week during the first two days of the fall veto session.

Along with money for Corrections, the document includes $1.8 million for the Illinois State Police to train another class of cadets in order to replace retiring troopers.

The state police and the Department of Human Services also are seeking a total of $31 million to help implement the state’s new concealed carry law, the document notes.

Members of the House and Senate are expected to continue discussing the added money when they return to action on Nov. 5.

They could take action in the remaining three days of the veto session or they could resume talks when they reconvene in January.

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