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Leaders in Illinois, which has not had a budget for six months, have thrown up their hands when it comes to making a deal. Despite the resumption of talks between the governor and legislative leaders, a compromise is nowhere in sight. Since July, the state’s bond rating has been downgraded twice and social service agencies are scrambling to provide crucial services without money. The state’s problems go beyond not having a budget in place – revenues are also short more than $5 billion needed to fund government services. This is because lawmakers allowed a temporary increase in the state’s personal and corporate income tax rates to rollback on schedule at the beginning of the year, even though the state was not back on solid fiscal ground.
Many lawmakers spent Tuesday’s budget summit patting themselves on the back for being in the same room, but divisions remain. Gov. Bruce Rauner wants the legislature to agree to non-budget issues as a part of any compromise, including legislative term limits, changes in redistricting and weaker collective-bargaining laws. His opponents in the legislature say these measures would harm the middle class. Furthermore, there has been no agreement on raising needed revenue to patch the budget gap. Meanwhile, the state continues to spend money at a rate that eclipses revenue coming in, adding to the deficit. Leaders did agree to a stopgap measure that would allow lottery winners to be paid and help municipalities shovel snow and operate 911 centers.
Of course, this budget drama could have been avoided. Lawmakers have always had revenue raising options available to them, as this report from Illinois Fiscal Policy outlines.