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Judge orders Quinn to honor contract raises

State owes $60 million in back pay

SPRINGFIELD (AP) – Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration must pay the 2011 wage increases promised to state workers – eventually, a Cook County judge ruled Friday.

Circuit Judge Richard Billik Jr. decreed that regardless of whether the state budget has enough money, Quinn can’t renege on contractual pay hikes negotiated with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The bill comes to $60 million for about 30,000 employees. The state must pay what it can now, and cough up the rest of it when funds become available – at 7 percent interest, Billik said.

A spokesman said the Quinn administration would appeal the ruling but did not have further comment.

Quinn refused to pay raises to about 40,000 AFSCME employees beginning in July 2011 under a contract negotiated by the Democrat’s predecessor. He argued the Legislature hadn’t appropriated enough to pay the increases, worth about $75 million. As money became available last year, he released it, so some state agency workers received their raises.

Billik ordered the administration in August to hold $18 million in unspent state money earmarked for wages so there would be something to pay if he ultimately sided with the union.

Officials could not say Friday whether that money would be what is initially paid.

In a statement, AFSCME tempered its satisfaction by acknowledging the ruling was not an “unconditional victory.”

That’s because Billik affirmed his decision last July that Quinn isn’t required to pay money that hadn’t been appropriated.

He asked an arbitrator, whose earlier non-binding decision favored the union, to revisit the case with an eye toward the state’s ability to pay, but the arbitrator refused.

The union reported that the judge rejected the state’s argument that it never had to pay up because it failed to get a legislative appropriation to cover it.

His verbal order issued Friday included a kind of IOU: Pay what’s available now, and reimburse the rest when it’s available, plus 7 percent interest.

The AFSCME contract expired June 30, a pact whose terms remain in effect even though the two sides have been unable to agree on a replacement. The administration took the mostly symbolic step of canceling that contract late last month, arguing that the union had not budged on its position while the state had moved from demanding wage cuts to a wage freeze.

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