Illinois attorney general asks judge to stop paying workers

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[January 27, 2017]  (Reuters) - The attorney general of Illinois asked a judge on Thursday to lift an order requiring state workers to be paid during the state's record 19-month budget impasse in hopes of putting pressure on lawmakers to pass a spending plan.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan, a Democrat, filed a motion in St. Clair County Circuit Court, requesting Judge Robert LeChien to dissolve his July 2015 order that authorized the state comptroller to pay wages of all Illinois employees despite the state not having a budget in place, court documents showed.

The order has "removed much of the urgency for the legislature and the governor to act on a budget," Madigan said in a statement.

Since taking office in 2015, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner has feuded with the Democratic-led state legislature, leaving Illinois as the only U.S. state to go 19 months without a complete budget.

A bill package aimed at ending Illinois' record-setting budget impasse and addressing the state's deep fiscal woes will not be voted on in the Senate until the second week of February, the chamber's leaders said on Thursday.

Rauner spokesman Catherine Kelly said in a statement that the request by Madigan was disappointing.

"This filing seeks to directly harm thousands of employee families and even more who rely on our dedicated state workers everyday," the statement said.

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The motion filed by Madigan asked the judge to terminate his order on Feb. 28 to give state lawmakers time to enact a budget. Thirteen unions originally sued the state in St. Clair County Circuit Court to ensure its members were paid.

State Comptroller Susana Mendoza, a Democrat, said on Thursday that her office was working on a plan to meet technical adjustments that a payroll stoppage would require and to partially pay some state workers.

"Had Governor Rauner met his constitutional duty to propose a balanced budget in 2015 or 2016, we would not be facing a scenario where the livelihoods of our frontline employees could be threatened in this way," Mendoza said in a statement, vowing to follow all court rulings.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Michael Perry)

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