SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois lawmakers returned to work Saturday after missing a key deadline to prevent the state from starting an unprecedented third consecutive fiscal year without a budget, but the House leader said a vote wouldn’t be taken over the weekend, a declaration that prompted a return of the acrimony and name-calling that had a brief respite just a day earlier.
A $36.5 billion plan to rebuild Illinois’ crumbling finances passed a critical test on Friday, but a final deal hasn’t been reached. House Speaker Michael Madigan appeared briefly on the floor Saturday and said negotiations on a budget deal were continuing.
Without a budget, the state comptroller will be unable to cover basic services ordered by courts, road construction shuts down, Powerball ticket sales have halted, and the state’s credit rating could be downgraded to “junk.”
The fiscal morass is the longest of any state since at least the Great Depression, with Illinois ringing up a $6.2 billion annual deficit and a $14.7 billion stack of past-due bills.
The announcement by Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, came just a day after a harmonious House, weary of the two-year standoff with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, overwhelmingly approved a $36.5 billion spending plan on a preliminary vote. Some House leaders expected after meetings Friday night and Saturday morning that the chamber would proceed with a final vote and a roll call on a $5 billion income-tax increase to support it. Republicans reacted angrily to the unexpected development.
“Our side of the aisle is very concerned about what the nation and what will people be thinking about this state,” said House Minority Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs. “We had great momentum yesterday in this chamber. … I still contend that these matters could be resolved very quickly. I want this done today.”
His caucus stood with cheers and jeers, chanting support for continued work as Madigan left the floor to one GOP member’s denouement, “Speaker Junk!” The floor momentarily erupted like a playground, with one Democrat shouting down the Republican and the GOP floor leader, Rep. Steven Andersson of Geneva, intervening, “Knock it off. Both of you, knock it off!
Madigan sent messages Friday to the major credit agencies, which promised a downgrade of Illinois’ creditworthiness if the state didn’t have a deal by the new fiscal year. Credit agencies typically don’t publish analyses on weekends or during holiday periods, so the timing might be in Illinois’ favor.
The Prairie State’s last annual budget expired two years ago. Without a deal this time, the United Way reports that 36 percent of all human services agencies in Illinois face closure by year’s end, according to Rep. Greg Harris, the Chicago Democrat sponsoring the fiscal blueprint.
“There’s really not much to say, given the gravity of the situation we’re in. People in every corner of the state are watching what we do, to see if we get the job done,” Harris said in presenting the plan on the House floor Friday. “We’re staring at an abyss which faces us tomorrow morning when the clock strikes midnight.”
The proposal awaiting final House approval is similar, but not identical, to a Senate fiscal plan, meaning the House plan would need Senate concurrence. It’s unclear whether House members who voted for Friday’s spending outline would cast similar tallies for a revenue plan, which will likely include a 32 percent hike in the personal income tax rate, from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent.