Judge Dismisses Illinois Social Service Providers' Lawsuit

Cheryl Sanders
September 1, 2016

Nearly 100 social service agencies in IL were dealt a blow in a Cook County courtroom Wednesday afternoon.

Those 100 social services contracted with the state to do things like counsel people who are homeless or advocate for early childhood education. They argue that the state breached its service contracts and they're owed roughly $160 million.

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Rodolfo Garcia ruled that the fiscally shaky state, which has racked up $8 billion in unpaid bills, was immune from lawsuits of this type. The lawsuit names Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the heads of state agencies.

Illinois Pay Now Coalition spokeswoman Andi Durbin says they'll consider an appeal. "The state's failure to pay - and their belief that there is no way to make them pay - sets an extraordinarily bad precedent that should be of concern to anybody doing business with the state".

"This ruling calls into question the validity of any contract anyone has with the State of Illinois", Durbin said.

Last year, Rauner vetoed almost all of the budget legislation Democrats sent him, saying it was out of balance.

He said, however, that his ruling would allow the human-service organizations to quickly take their case to the Illinois Appellate Court.

The judge suggested further complications ahead for the cash-strapped state.

"The real problem we have is where would additional funding come from?" Illinois First Lady Diana Rauner is the president of Ounce of Prevention, which is also one of the organizations suing the state for reimbursement.

Providers had hoped to see their bills paid after Rauner and lawmakers agreed to a six-month stopgap budget in June, which has kept state government afloat for the time being.

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