SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration will an appeal an arbitrator’s ruling that Quinn violated a labor agreement when the governor decided to lay off nearly 2,000 state employees and shutter seven state facilities, including the Jacksonville Developmental Center and the Logan Correctional Center.

SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration will an appeal an arbitrator’s ruling that Quinn violated a labor agreement when the governor decided to lay off nearly 2,000 state employees and shutter seven state facilities, including the Jacksonville Developmental Center and the Logan Correctional Center.

The ruling, issued Monday by arbitrator Edward Benn, is the latest legal blow for the Quinn administration. Benn also ruled against the administration when it decided to cancel pay raises for thousands of union workers in July.

In the new ruling, Benn ordered the state to abide by a 2010 agreement with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which says the state cannot lay off employees or close facilities before July 2012 in exchange for $400 million in concessions and cost savings.

“The language in the cost savings agreements signed by the state and the union clearly prohibits layoffs and facility closures prior to July 1, 2012,” Benn wrote. “The contract language prohibiting layoffs and facility closures is clear. The state’s violations of that contract language are also clear.”

288 not covered

Benn’s ruling applies to 1,680 state employees covered under the 2010 agreement. Benn wrote that he had no control over the fate of 288 employees not covered by the agreement.

Benn rejected Quinn’s argument that he cannot keep the promises he made to the union because the legislature did not appropriate enough money to keep the state running for the full fiscal year.

As he did in the pay raise dispute, Benn declined to interpret a sentence of the state’s public labor relations law that says collective bargaining agreements are “subject to the appropriation power of the employer.” The meaning of that passage is for the courts to decide, he wrote.

“A party is not excused from previous contractual obligations by claiming that it presently can no longer  afford to meet its obligations,” Benn wrote. “The fact that the General Assembly passed a budget which the governor determined was insufficient to fund the state’s obligations … is a political dispute between the governor and the General Assembly and not relevant to this  contract matter.

“The state did not keep its promises. It now must do so.”

No money

Quinn’s office reiterated that his administration does not have the spending authority to make it through the fiscal year, which ends on June 30.

“You can’t spend money you don’t have,” said Quinn spokeswoman Brie Callahan. “We will seek to stay and vacate the decision while we continue to manage the budget so that core services the people of Illinois depend upon can be provided for the entire year.”

In a statement, AFSCME hailed the ruling.

“Benn makes clear that Governor Quinn's contention that he is free to violate the union contract based on the amount of funding appropriated by the General Assembly is without merit,” the union said.

Chris Wetterich can be reached at (217) 788-1523.

Other cases

--AFSCME is appealing U.S. Judge Sue Myerscough’s dismissal of a federal lawsuit arguing that Quinn’s cancellation of the union’s 2 percent pay raises impaired its contract with the state.

--The state is appealing Benn’s ruling against the state in the pay raise case.