News Local/State

Political Games Cause Real Budget Crisis, State Officials Warn


July 1 begins Illinois' new fiscal year -- a new year that needs a new budget to dictate how the state's money should be spent.

But with just 20 days left to go before that deadline, Illinois has no spending plan for next year...and state officials are warning of dire consequences.

Usually, lawmakers pass a budget before the end of May. They then send that budget plan to the governor, who has the option to approve the budget or veto all of it...or even certain sections of it.

Though Democrats pushed through a budget that would spend almost $4 billion dollars more than the state has, they haven't sent it onto the governor yet.

It's all part of a game of political chicken being played hard on both sides of the aisle.

And Comptroller Leslie Munger says that game is about to cause major fallout.

"If the General Assembly is unable to work with the governor to enact a balanced budget for fiscal '16 by the end of this month, nearly all payments coming from my office will stop on July 1," Munger told reporters in Chicago Wednesday.

Munger is actually an appointee of Republican Governor Bruce Rauner, who's insisting the General Assembly pass pro-business legislation before he'll consider a revenue increase.

But Democratic leaders -- namely House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton -- aren't bending to the governor's will so easily.

They call items on Rauner's "Turnaround Agenda" "extreme."

Still, Rauner and the leaders continue to meet. The governor told reporters he met with Cullerton on Tuesday.

"We talked about reforms and trying to come up with compromises," he said. Asked if Cullerton seemed willing to compromise, Rauner sighed before answering.

"I didn't see a lot of movement, I'll say that, but we're talking, we're working on it."

The stalemate in Springfield has many voters frustrated. At a stop yesterday in Decatur, Peoria resident Nicole Barron came to voice her annoyance to the governor.

"I just wish the cuts -- I wish he could think about it and stop pointing the fingers at the Democrats," she said. "I'm a Democrat. I voted for him, though. He's a Republican. But these cuts just make me think I made the wrong decision."

Barron is referring to a laundry list of proposed cuts Rauner released last week in light of a budget stalemate. Barron, a childcare provider, says her clients depend on assistance from the state of if payments cease, it'll hit her pocketbook, too.