Illinois' State Budget Impasse Will Likely Stretch Into 2017

With budget negotiations halted in Springfield, it seems unlikely that Gov. Bruce Rauner and the state’s top legislative leaders will be able to reach a new deal before the current stopgap spending plan expires at the end of the year.

Rauner has made it clear that he won’t consider a new temporary budget unless it includes reforms from his turnaround agenda, like term limits and a property tax freeze. The governor halted negotiations earlier this month after House Speaker Michael Madigan and Illinois Democrats failed to put forth a budget proposal.

"The Governor and Republican leaders remain ready to negotiate on a balanced budget with reforms to grow jobs, lower property taxes, improve schools and implement term limits," Rauner spokesman Lance Trover said in a statement earlier this month. "However, Democratic leaders continue to discuss internally whether they are prepared to present a budget proposal, so we will schedule the next Four Leaders meeting when we receive confirmation that they are ready."

On Tuesday, Madigan's office claimed the onus is on Rauner to put forth a budget proposal.

“[Rauner’s] indicated he’s gotten some idea, that while he’s the guy who is spending the money and will determine how much he wants to spend, that somebody else should give him a plan,” Madigan spokesman Steve Brown told Ward Room Tuesday. “That’s totally illogical, but that’s all that’s been happening.”

While it is Rauner’s constitutional duty to submit a balanced budget to the General Assembly by the third Wednesday in February, the legislature has the power to make decisions on appropriations and taxes. However, Brown claimed the two sides haven’t discussed revenue increases, like a potential income tax hike.

“The speaker’s said for nearly two years, it needs to be a balance between cuts and revenue, but we’ve never gotten beyond that,” Brown said. “And don’t plan to, frankly, at this point.”

Brown also reiterated Democrats’ desire to reestablish working groups, something Rauner has opposed. Brown said working groups were needed on a series of matters, including workers’ compensation and government consolidation. 

During a Facebook Live event earlier this month, Rauner claimed Madigan and Illinois Democrats were stalling to create a statewide crisis in order to force another stopgap funding compromise without reforms.

"My sense is, they're delaying, they're stalling, they're using tactics to get into January, February and create a crisis, meltdown of our human services and our important social service agencies and then try to force a stopgap plan or a tax hike with no reforms," Rauner said.

Although a good portion of the state's spending will continue to be covered through court orders and consent decrees, health and human services and higher education will likely continue to suffer without a budget.

In April, Chicago State University was forced to lay off more than 300 employees as a result of the state’s budget crisis. The school faces a year-end deficit and could be forced to make further cuts, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Funding for Monetary Award Program Grants expires at the end of the year, which could result in students losing tuition assistance.

In addition, Lutheran Social Services, the state’s largest provider of social services, announced they would cut 30 programs and 750 jobs as a result of the impasse. Other groups, like Catholic Charities, have also been affected by the ongoing stalemate.

“The speaker has said consistently that the budget is the number one problem, the number one issue in the state of Illinois,” Brown said. “So we’ll continue to work to get a full budget."

"That’s always been something we’ve been trying to do."

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