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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.