For the first time in seven months, the small group of people who could bring an end to the state’s epic budget impasse are finally going to meet.
But, rank-and-file lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say Tuesday’s pow-wow with Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Legislature’s four leaders may be more of a public spectacle than a productive meeting.
“So there’s a meeting in Springfield. Great,” said state Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton. “What I want to see is a common-sense plan from the governor to lead us out of this impasse that he created.”
“I do not have high hopes for the meeting,” added state Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon. “It’s going to be theater.”
* Just a taste of what’s at stake from recent news stories…
* Chicago Teachers Union plans strike vote on Dec. 9: NBC 5 news reported Sunday night that the Chicago Teachers Union has set a strike vote for Dec. 9.
* Vendor Payment Program suspended in Illinois budget impasse: Vendors facing payment delays have lost another lifeline for getting what they are owed. The Vendor Payment Program gets cash quickly to vendors who have provided products or services to the state but have not been paid. It has been temporarily suspended because legislators and Gov. Bruce Rauner have not agreed on a permanent state budget.
* Drug Courts Affected by Illinois Budget Impasse: A program that gets drug addicts clean and helps prevent them from committing more crimes is at risk of shutting down.
* Budget stalemate nearly kills Lincoln’s Challenge program: “Before I came here, I had given up on everything,” Gwinn said. “(Lincoln’s Challenge) has helped me come to my senses, and I’m very grateful for that.”
* Budget impasse traps people dependent on utility help: Unable to work since 2005, the 57-year-old Effingham woman has been relying on the state’s Percentage of Income Payment (PIP) utility assistance program to help her pay her power bill on a $753 disability check. But the state budget impasse has eliminated the PIP programs, at least for the time being. She’s eligible for the Low Income Household Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), but she said that’s not an immediate option.
* Legislators, Rauner must compromise: More than 5,000 NIU Monetary Assistance Program grant recipients are at risk of having to repay MAP grants that were credited by NIU despite no money coming in from the state, and the university plans to spend $300,000 to maintain the Stevens Building — a state project — over the winter to avoid $1 million worth of damage.
* State employees’ travel reimbursements on hold during Illinois budget impasse: “It has been most acute at the Department of Children and Family Services, where unpaid reimbursements had built up to the point that more than half a million dollars was owed to child-protection workers at that agency alone.”
* State needs to fund services for people with disabilities: Every day this stalemate goes unresolved social service agencies struggle to keep their doors open. Agencies sign contracts with the state to provide valuable community-based services, and that’s what they continue to do – even though payments are not being processed for state-funded grant programs.
* Enforcement of underage drinking laws slows during Illinois budget standoff: Liquor commission sting operations are among the latest casualties of Illinois’ nearly five-month budget standoff, with only 38 this past August — the most recent month for which figures are available — compared with 208 in August 2014.
* Little interest in loans to cover state shortfalls: Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s plan to offer loans to help cash-strapped local governments weather the lingering budget storm appears to be drawing little interest. According to the director of the Illinois Finance Authority, only two 911 emergency telephone systems have inquired about the loans, and neither has taken the steps to apply for the financial assistance. The lack of business comes as a surprise, Illinois Finance Authority chief Chris Meister said last week. “I was expecting a lot of calls,” Meister said.