Illinois On The Road To Spending More Than Budget Rauner Vetoed

Aug 13, 2015

Senate Democrats' analysis says Illinois is spending about 90 percent of what it typically does, even without a budget in place.
Credit Illinois Senate Democrats

Updated estimates show that Illinois is on the trajectory to spend $2 billion more than the spending plan Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed because it's out of balance, even though it has gone 44 days without a budget.

Illinois has been without a budget since the start of July. And yet money's steadily flowing from state coffers, thanks to court orders, decrees, and other arrangements.

"We can't even close down the state right," said Republican Rep. David Harris of Arlington Heights.

Part of the spending is intentional, as Rauner signed a law making sure schools are paid. The rest is on auto-pilot. Court orders mean state workers are getting paychecks, consent decrees cover services for foster children and the law requires Illinois to pay its debts.

An analysis by Senate Democrats shows an analysis by Senate Democrats shows Illinois is already spending nearly 90 percent of what it typically does and that all told, Illinois is on track to spend $3 billion more than it's expected to collect in revenue.

Senator Heather Steans, a Democrat from Chicago, says it shows that despite calls for cutting waste, "much of our budget really is not discretionary."

She says the situation isn't rational, adding "not getting to a budget does have serious consequences, and it makes it much more challenging for us to address it the longer we go on," When a court's ordering the spending, lawmakers lose flexibility. For example, Steans says lawmakers were considering cutting the rates it pays for Medicaid services. Instead, the court order means payments are going out at the higher level.

Rauner has said he won't negotiate on a budget or tax hike until his pro-business, anti-union measure is approved. Rauner's attorney has said the consent decrees are hamstringing options, but Rauner actually supported court orders for things like paying government workers.

The governor's spokeswoman, Catherine Kelly, says the governor has asked legislators to support proposals that would result in billions of dollars in savings, but none were enacted. "None," she reiterated. The list includes controversial plans that failed to gain traction on a bipartisan level, such as reducing the portion of the income tax allocated to local governments, and requiring state employees to pay more for their healthcare, which must be part of ongoing negotiations with unions on a new contract.  Rauner's office says Democrats are supporting the "failed status quo" and only want a tax increase.