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Illinois Budget Impasse Continues To Claim More Victims

By aaroncynic in News on Apr 3, 2017 7:35PM

IllinoisStateCapitol.jpg Despite a stopgap budget that got us through last election season, Illinois has languished without a fully funded budget for some 22 months and could go without one through our next election cycle.

“It’s very, very difficult to be both in campaign mode; and then be trying to put together the kind of negotiation, compromise, sharing of the pain, and extending the kind of trust that makes these bargains,” University of Illinois at Springfield political science professor emeritus Kent Redfield told CBS2 on Friday.

Despite a healthy 1 year and 7 months between now and November of 2018, it seems the campaign has already begun, with several Democratic challengers already announcing their campaigns, a series of ads promoting Gov. Bruce Rauner’s latest repackaging of his “Turnaround agenda,” and serious fundraising to the tune of more than $55 million from both incumbent and potential challengers.

Rauner and state lawmakers have been at odds since he took office, with Rauner pushing for a package of “pro-business” “reforms” that Democrats and others say are non-budgetary items. Caught in the middle in what has been a forever ongoing proxy war between the governor and chief archnemesis House Speaker Michael Madigan is the actual state budget. While some items and entities have received funding sporadically due to emergency and stopgap measures, a backlog of bills is piling up, and social and other services that rely on state funding continue to suffer.

According to a factsheet released last week
from the Responsible Budget Coalition (h/t Capitol Fax), an umbrella group representing some 300 human services, health care, education, labor, civic and faith based organizations, more than 1 million Illinoisans have lost access to critical services. Among those critical services are those provided to people with disabilities, homelessness prevention, opioid addiction prevention, rape crisis centers, employment and training programs, transportation and home delivered meals for seniors, and citizenship assistance and language access for immigrants.

In addition, funding for education in Illinois has taken a huge hit, with higher education seeing a $2.3 billion drop in funding over the past two years, the state not funding tuition grants for 130,000 low-income college students, and 15,000 youth losing access to safe spaces after school.

“For me, receiving a MAP grant was the key to my college education and to a middle-class life. Now that the program is unfunded, I’m worried that my dream of graduating from college might not become a reality,” reads a quote from a University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign student named Trisha in the document.

In total, Illinois has nearly $13 billion in unpaid bills, a number likely to continue to increase, and could reach as much as $28 billion, according to Redfield.

Among those left twisting in the wind due to the impasse are widows of police and firefighters killed in the line of duty. Due to the impasse, seven women have been waiting for more than a year for what amounts to $2.7 million via the Line of Duty Compensation Act, a law that mandates one-time payments and burial reimbursements to the families first responders, according to a Monday report from Reuter’s.

While Rauner prefers the usual Republican method of slashing and burning to fund a budget, the RBC and other groups, as well as Democratic lawmakers and some of Rauner’s gubernatorial challengers have said that the state needs to raise revenue.

In his campaign announcement State Senator Daniel Biss advocated for changing the state’s flat tax code to a graduated one, where those with higher incomes would pay higher rates, and those with lower incomes would pay less.

"If we get rid of that and tax the wealthy fairly, ask them to contribute just their share to making our state work, we'll be in the position to have the kind of budget we ought to have,” said Biss in a video on Facebook Live.

Meanwhile, many just want lawmakers and the governor to do their job and get a fully-funded budget passed before even more irreparable damage is done.

William McNary of the organization Citizen Action Illinois speaks to demonstrators outside a high dollar fundraiser hosted by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner at the Chicago Hilton. Photo by Aaron Cynic.

Speaking at a protest outside the Chicago Hilton where Rauner hosted a fundraiser where ticket prices began at $500 and went as high as $40,000, William McNary of the group Citizen Action said he should’ve been working with lawmakers.

“Governor Rauner, this is a Springfield session day,” McNary told a group of mostly union workers from a stage erected on 8th Street after hundreds picketed the building for more than an hour. “Instead of being here accepting $40,000 checks and sipping champagne, you oughta be in Springfield to pass a responsible budget. Do your job.”