State Budget Standoff Reaches 90 Days

The state is now a quarter of the way into the fiscal year without a spending plan. And yet, the state is spending – anywhere between 80 and 90 percent of last year's budget – through court orders and continuing appropriations. But there's less money this year due to the rollback of the income tax rate. 

With the Senate back Oct. 6 and the House returning to Springfield Oct. 20, it would appear the standoff is a very long term proposition.

Here to talk about the logjam and possible ways to work together are Senate President John Cullerton, who has been a lawmaker for 36 years and Illinois Senate President since 2009; and Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno, who has been minority leader since 2009 and state senator for 18 years. 

Want to share your thoughts? Send an email to Cullerton or Radogno.

Highlights from our discussion

While there hasn’t been any recent progress on the state budget stalemate, Cullerton says that would be a different story if it were up to him and Radogno.

“I think that if she and I were in charge, we would be a long way toward solving the problems. It is a little different, though, with our new governor. We’ve never had anything like this before. We have, like you say, 90 percent of the budget being spent,” Cullerton said. “We don’t have enough money to sustain that. We want to focus on the budget, the governor wants to focus on other things and that’s where the rut is.”

“This governor was elected on a platform of change, and so that is what he’s pursuing,” Radogno said. “He is continuing to pursue some fundamental changes to Illinois that he and Republicans believe are necessary, in order not to have just a short term budget but long-term economic health in this state.”  

Amid this budget standoff, Secretary of State Jesse White issued a letter outlining possible cuts to services in addition to announcing that state police training has been canceled due to the impasse.

“I think this is what the state does. This is why we have a budget, and as important as these other issues are to the governor, they’re not worth shutting down the government which is what he believes that he can do. He can hold—I don’t want to use words like hostage--but he’s using leverage by not having a budget to get these other issues. I don’t agree with Christine that they are so important the whole state should be shut down. I don’t think she does either.”

“The state’s not shut down, though. I mean, the fact is 90 percent is being funded,” Radogno said. “Senate president’s correct in this concept of leverage. I mean, here’s the scenarios we can do: We can adopt a budget today based on the $38 billion rate that we’re spending money—mind you we only have $32 billion coming in—and raise taxes and have no reform. That’s one scenario, and frankly the Democrats can go ahead and do that, they do have veto proof majorities in both chambers. They can pass a budget; they can pass taxes to fund it if they really believe they don’t want reform. The governor is asking that as a condition of revenue, tax increases—that is an anathema to many Republicans—that the Democrats give on some of these other issues that affect the business climate here.”

Note: Discussion highlights have been condensed.