5 Things To Consider During Rauner’s Budget Address | WBEZ
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5 Things To Consider During Rauner’s Budget Address

Gov. Bruce Rauner on Wednesday will present his third budget proposal without ever having successfully passed a full state budget.

Instead, a 19-month-long impasse has ensued. In that time, court mandates have prevented a total shutdown of state government, though that could all change later this month if a downstate judge rules state workers shouldn’t be paid without a budget. And while short-term payments from the state have delayed some fiscal pain in a variety of sectors, these stopgap tactics have created long-term fiscal uncertainty for Illinois and organizations that help some of the state’s neediest residents.

Here’s a list of what Rauner faces as he prepares a spending plan for the next 12 months without having a complete budget.

Officials at Chicago State University last year declared a financial emergency at the school that largely serves black students. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)
Universities 

The state’s public universities, which have not been consistently paid during the impasse, now find themselves without any state funding after a stopgap budget expired at the end of last year. At Chicago State University, Rauner tapped a former political rival, Paul Vallas, to lead a turnaround of that school after it declared a financial emergency last year.

At Northeastern Illinois University, faculty and staff are preparing for furlough days.

“I think this is a test of political wills,” said NEIU President Richard Helldobler. “Universities have been suffering for over 19 months now. We’ve been getting fed sporadically, but this is now coming at a great sacrifice to our students (and) to the state in terms of an educated workforce and drawing industry back.”

Protesters rally outside the Illinois Capitol in Springfield in Nov. 2015 and urge lawmakers to end the state budget impasse. (Seth Perlman/AP)
Social Services

Organizations that care for elderly clients in their homes, council victims of sexual assault and assist  adults with disabilities have all gone without state funding since the beginning of this year.

Last year, Lutheran Social Services of Illinois cut 30 programs to survive the political impasse, forcing clients to find other service providers, including children who receive mental health care and people seeking addiction treatments. Currently, domestic violence organizations are bracing for a difficult year as state funds dry up. These programs received a total of $18 million in 2015, but they were left out of a partial budget approved by state lawmakers in July of 2016.

Rauner frequently says his proposed economic policies -- the same ones at the root of the impasse -- would help grow the state’s economy and allow Illinois to be more compassionate in taking care of its most vulnerable residents.

Chicago businessman Chris Kennedy poses for a portrait in his office Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017, in Chicago. Kennedy, the son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy Jr., says he will run for Illinois governor in 2018. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)
The race for 2018

Even though the election is more than a year away, the campaign for governor has already begun and nearly a dozen Democrats have said they are considering a run against Rauner. Only two Democrats have publicly declared their candidacies so far. Chris Kennedy, the son of Robert F. Kennedy, last week announced he will seek his party’s nomination. Before him, Chicago Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th Ward) told reporters he’s running.

Meanwhile the Illinois Republican Party has constantly launched online attack ads against Democrats who have said they’re considering a gubernatorial bid. Rauner has repeatedly said he’s not involved in his party’s political strategy -- even though he has largely funded its operation -- and has downplayed the significance of political attacks tying Democratic candidates to House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) on budget negotiations.

House Speaker Michael Madigan, left, and his daughter, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, right, speak to high school students in the House chambers in 2014, at the Illinois State Capitol. (Seth Perlman/AP)
Shutdown

The day after Rauner delivers his budget address, a St. Clair County judge will hear arguments about whether state employees can be paid if the state does not have a budget. When the budget impasse began in 2015, a judge determined the state must pay employees if they show up to work -- even if there’s no budget in place to pay them. Court orders also forced the state to pay for foster care and Medicaid.

But Attorney General Lisa Madigan recently filed a lawsuit that argues a recent Illinois Supreme Court decision proves the state shouldn’t actually pay employees without a budget. Her hope is that if employees don’t show up for work, then the threat of a government shutdown would force a budget agreement between Rauner and Democratic legislative leaders. Before a judge has even heard arguments in the case, House Democrats and Republicans are advocating for competing legislation to pay state employees. The Democratic plan would pay workers until July. But Rauner has said that creates a new crisis come June 30. Instead, he favors a Republican plan that would pay state workers with no end date.

Illinois senators debate legislation while on the Senate floor during session at the Illinois State Capitol Tuesday, May 31, 2016. (Seth Perlman/AP)
Grand bargain 

Meantime, Senate leaders have been trying to negotiate a grand compromise, but that plan is starting to show cracks. The package of 12 bills includes increases in the state income tax, a new school funding formula, more casinos and borrowing money to help pay down the state’s backlog of bills. Democrats called some of the less controversial elements of the compromise for votes, but Republican senators did not support them. Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) said Democrats broke their deal by calling the bills for a vote before there was a negotiated compromise on the entire package. Democrats said there’s been enough talking, and they wanted to show action for their work. 

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