Budget Stalemate nearing 1 year in Springfield: How did we get here?

Illinois Budget
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- It has been 321 days without a budget in Illinois. That’s nearly a full year of unpaid bills totaling about $7 billion.

Lawmakers have until the end of the month to pass a budget for fiscal year 2017 but they still haven’t done the 2016 budget.

The state has been floating along without one making the financial situation in Illinois worse.

Thanks to court orders and consent decrees, Illinois has been spending since the start the budget year.

But experts say that’s only making the fiscal situation worse.

“The most vulnerable citizens of the state of Illinois are being harmed by us not having a budget,” said Laurence Msall of the Civic Federation, “It’s the least effective way to governor, and it’s one of the most expensive ways to govern.”

Back in June 2014, Democratic Governor Pat Quinn signs a budget for fiscal year 2015 even though it’s projected to add $2 billion in unpaid bills.

But there was an even bigger issue, a temporary tax hike expired.

Personal income taxes fell from 5 percent to 3.75 and the corporate rate dropped from 7 percent to 5.25.  It cost the state $4 billion.

“There was never a plan. When it expired in 2015, there still wasn’t a plan for how we would live without that revenue,” sais Msall.

Fast forward to January 2015. Governor Bruce Rauner arrives in Springfield with his “Turnaround Agenda.” He proposes pro-business, union-weakening reforms and changes to state pensions.

Democrats say no. The powerful House Speaker Michael Madigan and his allies reject the Rauner budget and then propose their own plan.

But it’s short nearly $4 billion: $32 billion in revenue and $36 billion in spending.

The governor vetoed the Democratic plan except for K-12 school funding.

Ten months later, Rauner and Madigan blink and sign off on funding for higher education. But no grand budget compromise.

WGN has learned that a meeting is scheduled for tomorrow behind closed doors with Governor Rauner and the four legislative leaders. They’re talking. That counts for something.

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