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State

Topinka: Funds needed for state worker back pay

SPRINGFIELD – A supplemental appropriation is needed to come up with the money to fund back pay for state workers, Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka said.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has made a supplemental funding request for $221 million for a variety of unexpected or extra expenditures. It includes $112 million to pay back wages plus interest to thousands of unionized state workers. They were denied raises due under a previous labor agreement. A judge has ruled the workers are due the money.

The State Journal-Register reports that during a news conference Tuesday in Springfield, Topinka said it’s necessary to approve the extra money for back pay. Topinka said she doesn’t have bags of money “sitting around the office” and she doesn’t know where else the money will come from.

Under the last union contract negotiated by Quinn’s predecessor, the Democrat reneged on raises owed to more than 30,000 American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees members in 2011 and 2012 totaling 5.25 percent. He contended he could not pay the increases because the Legislature had not sent him enough money.

The union sued, and in December, a judge ruled Quinn had to pay.

During the whole time, the union and the Quinn administration were negotiating on a new contract for the one that expired in June 2012. Talks went on longer than at any time in the 40-year history of Illinois collective bargaining – about 15 months. But as part of the deal reached last spring, Quinn agreed to pay the overdue money, to ask Attorney General Lisa Madigan to drop an appeal of his lawsuit, and to seek money for the raise from the General Assembly in a supplemental appropriation.

Some back pay has been turned over, either during the fiscal years it was due as money became available in certain government agencies, or taken from an escrow account the judge ordered be set aside from fund left over at the end of the 2011 budget year.

But the Legislature has resisted taking any further action.

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