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Lawmakers send back pay bill to governor with veto-proof support

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SPRINGFIELD – A plan to pay off the state’s oldest debt – back pay owed to some 24,000 state employees – is headed to the governor with veto-proof bipartisan support in both houses of the legislature.

The Senate approved State Senator Andy Manar’s measure to devote $63.25 million to wages that have been owed to state employees since 2011.

“This problem has lingered on the state’s books far too long. We owe it, it’s not going away, and we have to address it,” Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat, said.

The legislation (House Bill 4290) passed in the Senate with an overwhelming 58-0 vote Wednesday night. It passed in the House last week, also with robust bipartisan support.

The measure appropriates money to various state agencies to pay employees the wages they’re owed. The employees include correctional officers, caregivers for veterans and people with developmental disabilities, mental health professionals and others.

The Illinois Department of Central Management Services and AFSCME, the labor union representing the largest number of state employees, worked with Manar to determine how many workers are still owed back wages.

The largest amount, nearly $41 million, is owed to workers with the state department of corrections, followed by the department of human services, which owes more than $17 million to its employees.

“In my mind, this is a very simple matter. This is money that is owed for work that was completed under a contract between employees and their employer, the state of Illinois,” Manar said. “Paying these back wages is the right thing to do, and I urge Gov. Rauner to make sure it happens as soon as this bill lands on his desk.”