State money for services from child care to road construction could stop in Illinois starting next week after Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed most of the Democratic Legislature's budget plan, a move that follows weeks of vitriolic exchanges in a state new to divided government.
A day after signing into law public-school funding for the fiscal year beginning July 1, the new GOP governor on Thursday nixed the rest of the plan, which Democrats acknowledge is short on revenue by as much as $4 billion. He continued criticizing Democrats who he says indiscriminately spend taxpayer money and then play games to cover shortfalls.
"For too long, the state of Illinois has made spending promises that exceed available revenues, relied on accounting gimmicks to make budgets appear balanced, used borrowing and cost deferral strategies to push costs into the future, and delayed payments to vendors," Rauner said in his veto message.
Paychecks to state employees will go out for the first half of July, but "there are many programs, grant programs, for which contracts cannot be in place until we know we have money to spend," said the No. 2 House Democrat, Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie of Chicago. Medicaid payments for doctors serving low-income patients would stop, along with payments for vendors who provide day care so parents can work, contractors who operate homeless shelters and those helping the disabled or victims of child abuse.
Currie had hoped the governor's signature on school funding signaled he would approve other parts of the plan to keep government functioning while continuing to wrangle over his priorities, rather than reject it outright.
"Debate, discussion, that's all very healthy, but to start from scratch is not a great idea as we approach July 1," Currie said.
Engaged in nearly constant combat for six weeks with Democratic lawmakers, Rauner has insisted that before he talk about revenue to balance the spending blueprint, Democrats adopt "structural" changes he says are necessary to ease business restrictions and limit entrenched political muscle. They include a property-tax freeze, liability lawsuit and worker-injury compensation restrictions, term limits and fair political district drawing.
In a statement, House Speaker Michael Madigan of Chicago pointed out the House had had considered — but voted down — several of those issues, such as workers' compensation and a property-tax freeze. He has called them "real" votes, to howls of protest from the GOP.
As Rauner released his vetoes Thursday, the Chicago Tribune published an opinion piece by the governor offering concessions on his agenda. They include a plan to reduce the pension-payment burden for Chicago Public Schools, where officials are scrambling to deal with a $634 million bill due Tuesday unless the Legislature delays that deadline.
The proposals included taking up Senate President John Cullerton's wish to make state funding for schools fairer as part of the tax-freeze plan. Cullerton's spokeswoman, Rikeesha Phelon, responded by saying there is "room for compromise" on several issues, but that Rauner had signaled Thursday that he "wants to negotiate through a shutdown."