CHICAGO — The Illinois General Assembly's Democratic majority will press ahead Wednesday with a vote on a $2.26 billion, one-month budget to fund essential services after the new fiscal year dawned with no end in sight to a budget stalemate.
Also Wednesday, lawmakers will consider Democratic-backed legislation proposed late Tuesday to shift more of the burden of funding Chicago Public Schools' pension payments over to the state and enact a two-year property tax freeze for most local governments. Rauner is pushing the tax freeze, but the legislation lacks other provisions he wants.
Gov. Bruce Rauner previously said he was opposed to any temporary spending plan. Rauner recently vetoed the $36.3 billion fiscal 2016 budget Democrats pushed through the legislature, which the Democrats acknowledged fell at least $3 billion short of needed revenue.
The Rauner administration made clear its opposition to the one month plan in a letter authored by budget director Tim Nuding and addressed to Rauner. It was distributed Wednesday. “This bill marches the taxpayers of Illinois toward an unbalanced budget one month at a time,” Nuding wrote. The administration has argued a balanced budget is required under the state constitution, although past budgets have gotten around that requirement by pushing off bill payment.
Rauner's administration puts the shortfall at $4 billion and the freshman GOP governor has said he won't support new taxes without passage of items on his "reform agenda," which Democrats consider too favorable to business and harmful to unions.
"Tomorrow we will offer what we call an essential services budget," House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said Tuesday as the House held a committee-of-the-whole hearing on the impact of entering the new fiscal year without a budget. State agency representatives did not attend.
The temporary budget would total just over $2 billion, Madigan said. When asked if Democrats could muster the needed three-fifths majority, Madigan said: "We will find out tomorrow when we call the bill." He suggested some Republicans were considering a vote in favor of the stop gap measure. Democrats hold a three-fifths super majority in both chambers.
Madigan added he hoped Rauner would "see the wisdom" of keeping government open. "This is another opportunity to not shut down the government," Madigan said.
Madigan again stressed his position that "the number one problem facing the state of Illinois is the budget deficit" and said a balanced solution of cuts and revenue hikes are needed. He has labeled Rauner's demand for approval of his turnaround agenda items as "extreme."
Both sides have tried to lay the blame at the other's doorsteps. Democrats contend Rauner could simply have used his line item veto powers to fashion a budget to his liking from the $36.3 billion sent to him by Democrats. Rauner has focused his attacks on Madigan for blocking reforms he argues will promote job and revenue growth.
State comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger previously warned that most state payments for the new fiscal year would halt, with a few exceptions like debt service, pension contributions, and local government distributive income tax aid that can be made under an ongoing appropriation.
Rauner's administration this week sought to ease state employee concerns they will miss their paychecks on July 15. Rauner did sign the education piece of the fiscal 2016 budget, so school aid payments due in August will be made.
Rauner told employees in a letter they should continue to report to work and they will be paid for their services.
"Our lawyers are working hard to ensure that all employees will be paid on their scheduled pay dates .If certain parties take action to temporarily block pay for state employees, we will explore every option, including asking local financial institutions to extend temporary bridge loans to employees," he said.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan issued a statement providing a legal overview of the impact on state operations.
"Illinois law is clear that the state cannot continue to fund all government operations and services in the absence of a budget passed by the legislature and signed into law by the Governor," she wrote.
The report raised questions over the administration's position that a 2007 ruling during a budget stalemate that summer set a legal precedent to make payroll.
Also on Tuesday, Rauner signed pieces of the fiscal 2016 capital budget reauthorizing previously approved road construction and other projects while vetoing some pet projects and renovations to the capitol building.