No Deal Reached as Illinois Lawmakers Fail to End Longest Budget Drought in Modern American History

Lawmakers adjourned Wednesday night, on the final day of the Illinois spring legislative session, once again failing to end the state's historic budget stalemate, leaving thousands of Illinois residents in a financial crisis. 

It's a move that not only means more votes will be needed to pass legislation going forward, but one that could also bring new money problems for tens of thousands of Illinois residents as the state continues to grapple with the longest state budget drought in modern American history. 

As of Thursday, the state owes $14 billion in bills, with courts ordering who gets paid as the impasse nears its two-year mark. Among those still getting paychecks are lawmakers. 

“Today we’ve seen a complete dereliction of duty by the majority in the General Assembly,” Gov. Bruce Rauner said during a press conference Wednesday. “Once again, a tragic failure to serve the people of Illinois.”

Wednesday marked the state’s 700th day without a budget, a day that was met with high tensions, protests and criticism in Springfield. It is reportedly the longest a state has gone without a budget deal since at least the Great Depression. 

State Comptroller Susana Mendoza said the budget impasse has left thousands in a "crisis," even saying her office has become a "trauma center."

"Those are stories about people who have lost their lives, will be losing their lives and are going without services that are vital to their subsistence in this state," she said. 

Mendoza said she plans to head to Federal court to ask if those who received managed care can move to the head of the line for those waiting to be paid by the state, a decision she hopes will be a "tipping point."

Traditionally in years past, the May 31 deadline has meant last-minute meetings with the four leaders of both the Illinois House and Senate, as well as the governor, but the Capitol hasn’t seen high-level summits like that in quite some time.

"The situation is dire,” said Republican State Sen. Karen McConnaughey, of Elgin. “We've got to keep working on it, we've got to stay at the table,” she continued. “We've been trying to do that - the Republicans have been sitting at the table, waiting for the Democrats to come back and continue the conversation where we left off.”

But Democrats shared that their hesitation to negotiate centers on Gov. Bruce Rauner.

"Our biggest fear is no matter what we agree to, as we’ve seen times in the Senate, whatever we agree to, the governor is going to try to blow it up first. If it passes, he's going to veto it," said Democratic State Rep. Greg Harris, of Chicago.

Yet another Republican said that Rauner has already compromised on his core issues – even the income tax increase passed by the Senate, which reportedly does not have enough votes in the House to reach his desk.

"We're not cutting any spending. We're not doing pension reform. We're not doing Medicaid reform,” said Barrington State Rep. Dave McSweeney, adding, “The governor has been secretly negotiating a tax increase.”

The failure to approve some form of compromise by Wednesday means lawmakers will need two-thirds approval, rather than a simple majority, on any legislation passed after the end of session.

"What we have here is insiders who have been in power for decades, who created the current system and refuse to change it," Rauner said. 

Even before the midnight deadline, the Illinois House already preemptively approved meetings in continuous session, planning to return to Springfield on Wednesdays throughout June, with the next goal set as June 30.

By then, schools, particularly Chicago Public Schools, will be even more anxious to see what state funding for the fall may look like.

"We're going to start to see some real pain, some real downgrades," Senate President John Cullerton said Wednesday. "We don't have any funding for schools, for higher education, we don't have a budget. It should have tonight, but it didn't."

While a budget deal remains elusive, lawmakers continued to pass other legislation Wednesday, with several lobbyists – including one of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s closest aides, Michael Sacks – monitoring the action from both chambers.

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