Illinois is in a fix. Thousands of Illinoisans and organizations have been terribly affected by the Illinois budget crisis, and that number continues to grow every day. Apparently, the state will have to notch its belt since rumblings from Springfield indicate that money will only be produced by March or April if at all.
Ever since 1215, on the fields of Runnymede, when the barons of England forced King John to sign the Magna Carta, the legislative branch has held the power of the purse in the Anglo-American tradition of government. The budget is renewed every three years and is collated from the budgets of the various agencies who send their lists to the Office of Management and Budget. The results reflect the governor’s priorities and interests as well as the projected money the state has to spend in a given fiscal year.
Problem is that in an unprecedented step of events, Illinois has hiccuped on its budget this year and is, for some reason or other – experts disagree on causes – sloughing its feet. Judicial decrees and executive actions have forced the expenditure of some state funds but far more is needed. The state needs its money; the General Assembly should have authorized a budget by July 1, 2015. The Illinois budget is off by 207 days, six hours, and 38 minutes.
Thousands of Illinoisans been terribly affected by the Illinois budget crisis, and that number continues to grow every day. Consequences include:
- More than 1,000 Illinois college students who dropped out of school for their second semester.
- The state’s Department of Central Management Services may soon cease providing medical care for 150,000 state employees, retirees, families.Approximately 735 projects at about 135 different parks are on hold due to the budget deadlock.
- Police training classes across the state have been canceled.
- Half of Illinois colleges may have to turn away students who receive the Monetary Award Program.
- 75,000 Illinois domestic violence victims will lose services because lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner have not passed a state budget.
- Local health departments across Illinois are cutting back on staff, hours and services because they can’t get state funding until there’s a state budget.
The list goes on and on. For a more complete list of list of statewide problems from the budget standoff see Reboot Illinois.
What to do?
Christopher Z. Mooney, director of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois and the W. Russell Arrington Professor of State Politics on the Springfield campus is none too optimistic. He explains that the governor has to aggregate a majority to kick in its bill. So far this majority has been vacillating.
The most likely scenario is that the legislative leaders may have to butt heads with the governor and work out a compromise that both sides can live with. None of the parties involved will be thrilled with the results – that’s always the case with a compromise. And the budget’s going to be bad. There’ll be painful costs and significant tax increases. Naturally, the state policy makers do not want this but the state’s problems seems to be worse this years and its political dynamics more challenging than ever.
There could be tipping points, too, that could prod an impasse. Teachers could go on strike or a mass layoff of teachers could happen. One or more universities or community colleges might not open in the spring. A prison may be unable to keep its lights on or feed its inmates. Any of these, says Mooney, would put strong pressure on political leaders to settle the budget. Non-profit organizations – small day care providers or a women’s shelters – would have a tougher time.
One thing is certain, local and tip lawmakers need to feel some pressure to get their wheels spinning. Mother Nature, teachers’ strike, or protesting residents may do it.
Or they may spring a negotiated settlement tomorrow. We’re waiting to see what will happen.