With just two weeks until Illinois’ new fiscal year starts July 1, Governor Bruce Rauner is asking state lawmakers to immediately return to Springfield and approve a stop-gap budget that will fund K-12 schools for the next year and keep essential state services running until January.
Also during the week, two Rauner Administration officials explained what the ongoing budget impasse means to state infrastructure construction and improvement projects.
Republican legislative leaders have offered affordable budget solutions that will allow schools to open on time this fall, and keep basic state government services operational through the end of the year.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Michael Madigan cancelled a planned Wednesday session for the second week in a row.
Short-term budget needed to avoid capital construction delays
Without spending authority on July 1, more than 800 active road projects worth about $2 billion and employing about 25,000 workers are at risk, and vital capital improvement projects affecting correctional centers, K-12 schools, universities and veterans homes will sit idle for a second year.
On June 15, Department of Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn joined the Governor in calling for a resolution to the budget impasse, warning that road construction and improvement projects will shut down July 1, creating safety concerns for motorists, adding significantly to project costs, and resulting in the loss of thousands of construction jobs.
Capital Development Board Executive Director Jodi Golden also noted that the lack of spending authority forced the suspension of a number of active construction projects across the state last year, and threatens the loss of a second construction season this year. She said many routine maintenance issues have turned into safety concerns, and the state is seeing its facilities deteriorate and incurring costs on a daily basis. Halting these construction projects also put jobs on hold for many workers.
Stop-gap budget most responsible course of action
Republican lawmakers have been working for more than a year in bipartisan and bicameral negotiations to pass a balanced budget and meaningful economic reforms to expand job opportunities, fix a corrupt political system and mend a failing state economy.
It is clear that Democrat leaders are hoping to delay the budget until after the election in November, putting at risk schools, prisons, mental health facilities and other human service programs. Barring an immediate resolution of the stalemate, Republican lawmakers have joined the Governor in saying the passage of a stop-gap budget is the most responsible course of action right now.
Ensuring schools can open in the fall is the most pressing issue, and Republican lawmakers have introduced measures (Senate Bill 3434/House Bill 6583) that would ensure General State Aid for K-12 schools would be fully funded for the first time in seven years.
The legislation includes an additional $105 million to “hold harmless” schools that would have received less state aid in Fiscal 2017 than they received during Fiscal Year 2016. The measures would also end the practice of “proration”—the deliberate underfunding of the General State Aid that schools should receive—that has taken place the last seven years.
A second part of the stop-gap budget solution (Senate Bill 3435/House Bill 6585) will ensure state correctional facilities, universities, and basic government operations are funded through the end of the calendar year.
It is important to note there is available revenue associated with these plans, unlike the out-of-balance budget forced through by House Democrat leaders in May, which spends $7 billion more than the state takes in and would force a massive tax hike on every Illinois family.
We will not support the continuation of the reckless and irresponsible spending that has been a hallmark of Illinois fiscal policy for the last dozen years, and is the reason Illinois finances are in such a terrible mess.