Battle Over Back Pay for State Workers
Updated: Tuesday, October 29 2013, 05:28 PM CDT
A battle may be brewing over back pay owed to lawmakers. It all stems from raises owed to thousands of state workers that were never paid.
AFSCME, the union representing those employees, took the issue to court. Gov. Pat Quinn fought it, but eventually lost and agreed to pay the raises.
Quinn said he needs a supplemental appropriation to cover the cost.
"The whole process of how they got the raises, that goes back to an election, and that's something that I probably wouldn't be real excited about," Republican Rep. Raymond Poe said. "But the agreement's made and I think we have to honor it."
According to the Governor's Office of Management and Budget, around $140 million in back pay was owed, out of which approximately $112 million is still outstanding.
"Some agencies had some money in their budgets, and went ahead and passed those on to the workers, and then the other agencies didn't," said Poe. "And I think we gotta be fair and make sure everybody is taken care of. You just can't pick out a few that gets their raise and a few that don't get their raise."
But Poe is a Republican, and his party is in the minority.
A representative of House Speaker Mike Madigan's office tells us the governor was given billions of dollars in the budget, and the back pay needs to come out of that.
AFSCME does not agree with that assertion.
"All the money that can be distributed from the funds that were appropriated by the state budget have been," said AFSCME Council 31 Regional Director Jeff Bigelow. "And now, an arbitrator and a judge have ruled that this money is owed. The judge has said that this money has to be appropriated. The money is there. They have more money than they anticipated from sales tax revenue."
Many AFSCME members feel lawmakers have set a double standard over salaries.
"The legislators, when they didn't get paid, they went to court, as we went to court. They got a ruling that they should get their money. They got their money," Bigelow said. "They acted to get their money, and they have to do the same thing now for the state employees who are owed this money."
We also spoke with a representative from Senate President John Cullerton's office. She said he is working with Sen. Andy Manar and the governor’s office to reach a solution to pay what is owed.