ILLINOIS -- The fate of more than 90,000 state workers' paychecks could be decided by seven justices at the Supreme Court.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan is asking the state's high court to weigh in after budget negotiations have stalled in the Senate.
This level of budget gridlock is unprecedented, not just in Illinois, but nationwide. Neither side is willing to budge, and state vendors and employees are suffering for it. Some hotels, dentist offices and various other businesses are now refusing to do business with the state, since it's unpaid backlog of bills has now reached a staggering $12.8 billion dollars.
Without any progress in the statehouse, the state Supreme Court may have to weigh in. A circuit court in St. Clair County already ruled the state must continue to pay state workers. But attorney general madigan's motion to the Supreme Court argues the prospect of a government shutdown has to exist because it applies pressure on politicians to act.
On Wednesday, Supreme Court Justice Rita Garman said there's no doubt in her mind that this state worker pay case is headed to the courtroom.
"It's not our function to tell [legislators] how to do it. It's not our function to tell them what to do. But it is our function to say, what you've done, is it constitutional? Is it unconstitutional? We have to ultimately decide. And those are not easy questions to answer. It's not, as we say, a slamdunk."
A bill in the House from Republican Representative Avery Bourne would preempt the Attorney General's suit and require the state to continue paying state workers with or without a full budget. However, it's unlikely to pass a Democratic majority in the House and super majority in the Senate.
A spokesperson for the attorney general's office issued this statement, saying, "serious and irreparable damage has been done to the state."