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Illinois Comptroller: Prolonged Impasse Will Lead to “Greater Hardship”

Munger delivered a stark warning about the negative effects of a prolonged budget impasse

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    Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger delivered a stark warning about the negative effects of a prolonged budget impasse during a Thursday press conference at Chicago’s Thompson Center. Mary Ann Ahern reports. (Published Thursday, June 9, 2016)

    Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger delivered a stark warning about the negative effects of a prolonged budget impasse during a Thursday press conference at Chicago’s Thompson Center.

    Munger warned about the $23 billion in spending for things like schools, health and human services and higher education that would stop if legislation isn’t passed in Springfield.

    “The facts are that our social service network is being torn apart, that our most vulnerable residents are losing critical services, that our colleges and universities, many of them, are on the verge of collapse, and that businesses and organizations throughout our state are being forced into mass layoffs that leave families with no way to meet their financial obligations,” Munger said Thursday. "All of this is happening because leadership in Springfield has refused to pass a budget and that's unconscionable."

    Munger detailed budget bills passed by the legislature and signed by the governor that will not roll over into fiscal year 2017.

    The spending includes $13.7 billion for K-12 education and teacher pension payments. The comptroller warned that schools may not open if a K-12 funding solution isn't reached in Springfield.

    An estimated $600 million in funding for colleges, universities and Monetary Award Program would also stop. The impasse has already caused huge problems for state universities and community colleges, namely with the funding of scholarships and grants. 

    The funding also includes $3.1 billion for local governments, 911 call centers, domestic violence shelters and $5.4 billion in federal spending for the Low Income Energy Assistance Program, HIV prevention and home-delivered meals for seniors.

    Munger noted that businesses that have provided goods and services to the state during FY16 would continue to go unpaid in FY17 if legislation isn’t passed in Springfield. During her speech, she claimed that $899 million was being held until a budget is passed, because the state can't legally pay contractors.

    The comptroller warned that contracted organizations and businesses that provided services to the state in the past year might be forced to take their cases to court to receive payment without a budget.

    Vendors would typically seek payment by presenting their cases before the Court of Claims, but the court isn’t an option without an appropriation. This means the state could potentially face a litany of lawsuits.

    A group of Illinois-based human and social service agencies and companies already filed a lawsuit against Rauner and members of his administration in May seeking payment for over $100 million. An early-childhood-education nonprofit led by the governor’s wife, Diana Rauner, joined the lawsuit later in the month.

    Given the state's dire financial outlook, Munger claimed "a stopgap would be better than nothing," but called the plans insufficient.

    "It would help us pay the vendors who have been waiting all year for payment and that includes a lot of our social services," Munger said. "It helps get us through the next few months, it does not provide a plan for spending. it is not a long-term solution."

    Munger instead pushed for a full, balanced budget Thursday.

    Illinois has been without a budget since July of last year. The General Assembly adjourned last Tuesday without passing a plan. The budget standoff has been typified by a battle between Gov. Bruce Rauner and Illinois Democrats over his pro-business Turnaround Agenda.