Illinois House Democrats still don’t have enough support to pass a Senate revenue bill that includes an income tax hike, or their own tax proposals — and a June 30 budget deadline appears to be a new goal line for a budget plan with just two days left in the regular session calendar.
While adjournment is scheduled for Wednesday at midnight, the new fiscal year begins on July 1. The state hasn’t had a full budget since July 1, 2015, amid a political war between Gov. Bruce Rauner and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan. And a partial budget expired on Jan. 1, leaving public universities and social service agencies struggling to survive.
“The first of July is the real deadline for having a budget in place so the state can continue to operate,” said State Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, who is serving as Madigan’s chief budget negotiator.
It becomes more difficult to pass legislation on June 1 when a three-fifths majority is needed. The governor has criticized the Senate revenue plan, and there aren’t enough Democrats to override him if he vetoed it.
When the House Dems start talking about June 30th, pay attention. It could be a long summer.
Illinois, which hasn’t had an annual budget since summer 2015 - the longest of any state in modern history - is running a deficit of as much as $6 billion and sitting on a $14.5 billion pile of overdue bills.
We’re so unique!
As negotiations continued late into the evening Monday, questions remain about whether the House will choose to take up an annual budget at all, or if there will be a repeat of last year when the chambers couldn’t agree on a plan to send to Rauner. Negotiations continued throughout June, resulting in a temporary budget that ensured schools opened on time and universities and social services were funded for six months.
“What good is it to pass a budget that doesn’t go anywhere?” said Rep. Fred Crespo, D-Hoffman Estates, who serves as an appropriations chairman. “Really the endgame should be, ‘How do we keep government running to help the people we are supposed to help?’ Whether it’s at 100 percent, it’s at 80 percent, it’s at 50 percent. To me, that’s the fundamental question that we are losing sight of. We are spending a lot of time on a budget that might not happen.”
Crespo noted that even if Democrats did pass a budget, they would not be able to override a possible Rauner veto. That would take 71 votes, but there are just 67 Democratic members. He said if lawmakers blow past the Wednesday deadline, it’d put pressure on Republicans to cut a deal.
Rep. Greg Harris, who serves as a budget point man for House Speaker Michael Madigan, said Democrats will “cross that bridge as we come to it.”
“The governor, as he has shown, has no concern about just vetoing any budget and driving the state further into ruin. That’s what he’s done in the past, but we can’t fail to do our jobs and send him a responsible budget,” Harris said.
Keep in mind that Gov. Rauner has repeatedly said he will veto a stopgap unless he gets a permanent property tax freeze. Maybe they’ll just wind up calling it something else. As noted above, it could be a while before we know.
Keep a close eye on our live coverage post for constant updates.