Never go full “Greece”
Illinois’ new budget year starts tomorrow, and unless Republicans and Democrats can come to an agreement on fiscal policy, the state will kick things off without the ability to pay the bills.
Illinois has a reputation for being largely rural, yet bafflingly Democratic. The Chicago machine—not those languishing in my old stomping grounds in the capitol of Springfield—runs things, but for the first time in over a decade, a solidly Democratic legislature is dealing with a Republican governor.
Bruce Rauner has spent his time bucking the trends that have run Illinois into the ground, but Democrats have, in turn, bucked his pro-business agenda and are demanding a massive tax increase to make up for a $4 billion dollar shortfall.
The AP has the back story:
The back-and-forth is the latest in a months-long fight between Rauner and majority Democrats over how to resolve Illinois’ massive financial problems and — more recently — who will take the blame if state government begins grinding to a halt and critical services are cut off.
The two sides have been deadlocked over how to eliminate a deficit that’s the largest of any state in the U.S. Illinois already is billions behind in paying its bills and has the nation’s worst-funded state pensions, with a more than $100 billion shortfall.
Without a new budget in place by the Wednesday start of the new fiscal year, some 65,000 employees face the prospect of missing paychecks starting in mid-July. That raised fears workers would stay home and some government operations would cease.
Gov. Bruce Rauner worked to alleviate those concerns, saying in a memo sent to state workers and provided to The Associated Press that “State employees will be paid for their work.”
“I will do everything within my power,” he continued. “Our lawyers are working hard to ensure that all employees will be paid on their scheduled pay dates.”
Rauner has been in talks with Democrats in an attempt to figure out a way to keep current employees on the payroll in the event of a shutdown; Dems appeared to be on board with that, but Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan torpedoed the plan, citing a decades-old court opinion stating that cutting checks without an approved fiscal plan in place violates the Illinois Constitution.
(This situation is a double-up on pressure from the blue side of the aisle. Madigan’s father, Mike Madigan, currently serves in Democratic leadership in the IL House. Welcome to the Land of Lincoln, people.)
Today, representatives from 15 government agencies that report to Rauner are testifying in the House about what procedures will be put into place in the event of a shutdown. Rauner has already vetoed one Democrat-backed bill, and it doesn’t look like he’s willing to cave at the 11th hour to a plan that raises taxes and maintains entitlement spending.
As union and other progressive activists prepare their talking points, Illinois officials are preparing for the worst. We’ll keep you updated on the situation.