CHICAGO – Don’t come home without passing a budget: that was the message a coalition of prominent civic and planning groups told Illinois lawmakers Wednesday.
They warned of the dire toll the state’s two-year-old budget impasse has taken on its financial condition, and in social services, school districts, public colleges and universities many of which are waiting on state payments or have gone without appropriations since January.
“The state of Illinois is in shameful financial shape,” the coalition said, citing a bond rating that “has fallen to worst-in-the-nation, near-junk status,” which has translated into higher borrowing costs “for any government in Illinois that issues debt.”
The Better Government Association, Chicago Civic Federation, Forefront, Metropolitan Planning Council, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, and Voices For Illinois Children are participating in the coalition.
Without action, the state’s $14 billion bill backlog could swell to $19.7 billion by the end of fiscal 2018, which would restrict more than half of the state’s fiscal year 2019 general fund revenues. Many bills accrue interest at a 9% to 12% annual rate. “In the last decade, Illinois has paid $1.1 billion in interest penalties on overdue bills. The comptroller estimates interest due on current bills to be $800 million,” the coalition warned.
The groups may have put forth individual recommendations on reforms or budgeting suggestions but all “agree that the state must pass a comprehensive, balanced budget that includes additional revenues” because cuts alone won’t stabilize the state’s finances due to the size of its liabilities.
A long-term budget is the only solution.
“Partial budgets, stopgap plans and singling out elementary and secondary education have not helped anyone. In fact, this scheme has exacerbated our financial dysfunction,” the group said. “Therefore we warn the Illinois General Assembly and Governor Rauner: Do right by Illinois. Don’t come home without a budget.”
The session adjourns May 31, so any action that follows would have to occur in a special session and would take three-fifths supermajority votes to take effect.
Senate Democrats on Tuesday passed a $37.3 billion fiscal 2018 budget with cuts and tax hikes. The budget along with previously approved reform measures -- including ones Rauner has pressed for as any part of a budget plan that relies on tax hikes – have gone to the House. They face an uncertain fate in that chamber and Rauner and his fellow House and Senate Republicans slammed the budget.
Senate negotiations could continue to resolve differences over several of Rauner’s demands, including a local government property tax freeze and worker’s compensation, but none were set for Wednesday.