Budget Fix Signed Into Law; Daycare Program Saved

Mar 26, 2015

For weeks, advocates like these childcare providers have called on legislators to remedy a budget shortfall.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Republican Bruce Rauner has signed a temporary budget fix -- his first law since becoming governor earlier this year. 

Illinois' budget has a $1.6 billion dollar gap --- the result of a spending plan Democrats passed in the spring; some had hoped then for a post-election tax increase that never came to fruition.

Democratic Senator Heather Steans of Chicago says this will fill that gap.

"We clearly had a significant budget challenge we needed to get through for this fiscal year," Steans said. "We knew it was an incomplete budget. This takes care of that, without adding any debt and without any new tax revenues." Rather, the plan calls for sweeping money from special funds meant for other purposes. It also relies on near across-the-board cuts to state spending.

Mental health, pension payments and a couple of other areas are spared; schools are not. But there's money set aside for the governor to draw on should a district find itself hurting, and in need of more cash. The deal saves a state-subsidized daycare program for low-income families that was out of cash, and ensures there'll be money to pay prison guards and court reporters.

Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno calls it a "small but significant step" in moving Illinois forward. "We will take a vote on this bill knowing full well it's going to cause some hardships, but it also does some good things in terms of preserving the childcare program, avoiding layoffs at corrections and other things that will allow state government to continue to function," Radogno said.

While it passed with bipartisan votes, only a dozen of the Senate's 39 Democrats went along with it. And in the House, support from Democrats in suburban swing districts was noticeably missing. The minority party was all in though; every Republican legislator voted "yes."

Gov. Rauner visited the Senate chambers on Thursday afternoon, after the vote (and later stopped by the House); hours later he signed the measures --- HB317 and 318 -- into law.