The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Illinois Legislature Ends Session (Yet Again) Without A Budget

By aaroncynic in News on Jun 1, 2017 5:04AM


When the Illinois’ legislature ended its spring session Wednesday night, it did so again without passing a budget.

The failure comes as no surprise to anyone who’s paid any attention to the impasse for any amount of time since it began more than 700 days ago. Predictably, Republicans, led by Gov. Bruce Rauner, and legislative Democrats, led by House Speaker Michael Madigan, lined up on opposite sides of the political aisle to lay blame on the opposite party for an unprecedented and historical failure of basic government.

“Today we’ve seen a complete dereliction of duty by the majority in the General Assembly,” Rauner said in a press conference streamed over Facebook Live. “Once again a tragic failure to serve the people of Illinois, to pass a balanced budget along with critical structural changes to protect taxpayers and grow more jobs. Instead the majority in the general assembly passed phony bills trying to manage phony headlines rather than solving the real problems that are facing the people of Illinois.”

“The governor’s reckless strategy of holding the budget hostage to create leverage for his pro-corporate agenda that pads the profits of large corporations and insurance companies has for the third year left Illinois without a budget at the end of the May legislative session,” Madigan said in a statement published by Capitol Fax.

Though technically the state still has another month to cobble together a budget before the beginning of the next fiscal year, it requires a tougher three-fifths majority to pass. Meanwhile Illinois’ backlog of unpaid bills has soared to $14 billion, and has faced numerous credit downgrades. Moreover, the suffering caused by agencies forced to slash their own budgets and cut programs will more than likely reach Dickensian levels sooner rather than later.

“Seniors will continue to lose meals on wheels and in-home care,” said the Responsible Budget Coalition in a statement emailed to Chicagoist. “People experiencing mental illness will be denied treatment. Survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse will be left without services vital for their safety and well-being. The list of suffering goes on.”

The coalition, which represents some 300 human services, health care, education, labor, and civic organizations and faith communities, published a list detailing the damage.

“The providers of these services have exhausted their funding options, including their reserves, lines of credit and grants from angel donors. Most have received no state payments since last fall. They simply cannot survive; a rash of new closings will likely occur; the state’s social service infrastructure will continue to erode. Meanwhile, a number of school districts across the state are facing the reality that they might not be able to start school on time in the fall.”
State Comptroller Susana Mendoza, who said that Rauner “has been an abject failure in his duty” to present a balanced budget for the General Assembly to act on, also warned of ‘dire consequences.’

“The state’s now $14.5 billion backlog will continue to grow, as will the interest the state owes on its unpaid bills,” Mendoza said in a statement. “K-12 schools will continue to suffer because of delayed payments. Universities and community colleges will see more layoffs as some struggle to keep their doors open. Companies will go out of business. Social service providers who protect the state’s most vulnerable, like the elderly and victims of domestic violence, will close.”

Speaker Madigan said that the House Democratic Budget Working Group will hold hearings, the first beginning on June 8 in Chicago, throughout the month to “prepare a budget for the coming fiscal year.”

Seeming to forget his own 'totally not campaigning but actually just “listening” stops' across the state, Rauner blasted Madigan, asking legislators to not “go through a process to create phony headlines across the state.”

“Please do not travel around the state holding sham hearings about a balanced budget, sham hearings that if they were to be meaningful at all could have and should have been held last winter,” said Rauner.

The group Illinois Working Together however, was not impressed, saying that the governor should "drop his agenda and do his job." "While the governor blames everyone but himself for his budget crisis, Illinois' students, seniors, and economy continue to suffer," the group said in a statement. "Enough is enough, governor."

Gubernatorial candidate and billionaire J.B. Pritzker took the opportunity to criticize Rauner as well.

“With the conclusion of regular legislative session today, it is all but certain Rauner's manufactured crisis will continue for another year,” said Pritzker in a statement emailed to Chicagoist. “Our economy, social service agencies, schools, and families continue to suffer untold damage at Rauner’s expense, as he works to shift blame at every turn. It is abundantly clear that Illinois will need new leadership to clean up Rauner’s mess.”