News Local/State

Bond Ratings Low, State Paychecks Uncertain, As Rauner Prepares For Budget Address

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks to reporters last November in Springfield, Ill.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks to reporters last November in Springfield, Ill. Seth Perlman / AP

Governor Bruce Rauner is scheduled to make his third annual budget speech to the Illinois General Assembly this Wednesday. The speech comes as credit rating agencies say the state’s fiscal condition is going from worst-in-the-nation to … whatever comes below that.

The analysts at S&P Global Ratings say Illinois has set itself apart from other states — and not in a good way.

The American economy has had about eight years of growth. Many states have used that time to pay off debt and build up reserves.

But S&P’s Gabe Petek says Illinois has been going in the opposite direction, letting its debt balloon.

“As far as we can tell, it mostly has to do with budget politics, not anything fundamental to Illinois’ economy, which has certain strengths that it’s currently not capitalizing on." Said Petek.

S&P says while it’s not predicting an economic downturn, if one were to occur, Illinois would be "particularly vulnerable.”

This is also the week in which a judge is scheduled to hear arguments over whether Illinois state workers should be paid without a state budget in place.

Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan says if a judge rules employees cannot get paid - then the threat of a shutdown could force a budget agreement.

But Republican Governor Bruce Rauner says the Democratic Comptroller could sign the workers’ paychecks regardless of what the judge decides.

“All that means is then Comptroller Mendoza has the authority to decide whether to pay them or not”, said Rauner. “(It) doesn’t mean she can’t. She can decide she’s not forced to.”

Comptroller Susana Mendoza said Rauner can “try to bully me into breaking the law as many times as he wants – I refuse to break the law.”

Governor Rauner will deliver his budget address to at the Illinois Statehouse, Wednesday, February 15, at 12 PM.