With just six days remaining in the fiscal year, Gov. Bruce Rauner on Thursday vetoed the budget he received from a Democratic-controlled state Legislature, calling it out of balance and “unconstitutional.”
Rauner released a statement blaming Democrats for his veto, saying they gave him a budget that was some $4 billion out of balance, butthe governor failed to offer a fiscal alternative to keeping the state’s doors open. Democrats had said their budget was a “spending plan” and that it was up to Rauner to increase taxes or make cuts to balance the budget.
“For too long, the State of Illinois has made spending promises that exceed available revenues, relied on accounting gimmicks to make budgets appear balanced, used borrowing and cost-deferral strategies to push costs into the future, and delayed payments to vendors,” Rauner’s statement said. “This has generated significant backlogs of unpaid bills and a crushing debt burden of well over $100 billion. Because of past fiscal mismanagement, Illinois is experiencing the worst fiscal crisis in America, highlighted by Illinois being assigned the worst credit rating of any state.”
The action immediately drew a warning from Democrats that Rauner was unnecessarily moving the state toward a shutdown. On Wednesday, Rauner shielded schools from the budget impasse, signing a bill that allows money to flow to districts and allow them to open on time.
The spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said Thursday: “We are going to discuss our options with our Caucus in the next few days. We will be in session on Tuesday and Wednesday. It is unfortunate that the governor chose to move toward a shutdown rather than taking a reasoned and balanced approach toward a compromise.”
It’s clear that if a shutdown occurs, Democrats are pushing to lay the blame on Rauner. But some Republicans believed talk of a shutdown was premature.
“There are still six days in the fiscal year, and in Springfield that’s an eternity,” said Patty Schuh, spokeswoman for Republican Senate Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont. “There is still some time to enact some things and to move the ball forward.”
Schuh scoffed at Democrats’ contention that Rauner would shoulder the blame for a shutdown.
“Oh please. . . . Lest the Democratic majority forget, they have controlled state government for the last 12 years, and current state revenue cannot sustain their spending level,” she said. “They passed a budget that is $4 billion out of balance, that’s not responsible government.”
However, in February, Rauner offered his own budget that the Civic Federation, a non-partisan fiscal group, called “unrealistic,” out of balance by more than $2.2 billion and including deep cuts to social services that would cost the state more in the long run.
In a sign that Democrats are ready to showcase how “Rauner’s extreme budget cuts” would affect the state, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, D-Chicago, on Wednesday announced he would hold public hearings on the most vulnerable populations who would be affected by a government shutdown.
“The House acted in May to avoid any disruption of a wide range of core programs and services important to middle-class and struggling families. Those are the people who will be harmed by a shutdown,” Madigan said in a statement. “Every House member is entitled to hear how the administration will determine which services will continue, allowing advocates to assess the impact of the governor’s shutdown and his agencies’ shutdown decisions and determine appropriate alternatives to his approach.”
Madigan’s office said next week’s Committee of the Whole will hear from “advocates of the elderly in need of medical care, the developmentally disabled, and others who will be negatively affected if Gov. Bruce Rauner decides to shut down state government.”
“Each day that passes without action by the governor creates unnecessary disruption and anxiety in every region of the state,” Madigan added.
The veto was not unexpected, Rauner had telegraphed his move before the General Assembly adjourned its spring session on May 31. Since then, an ongoing feud between the governor and Madigan has intensified with Rauner launching a TV ad campaign blaming systemic fiscal problems on Madigan.
At the heart of the debate is a push by Rauner for Democrats to advance pro-business, anti-union reforms in exchange for his agreeing to allow a tax increase to go through. But Madigan has called that strategy mixing apples and oranges; saying Democrats aren’t thrilled with taking a vote to raise taxes in the first place but laying pro-Republican platforms on top of that was a dead issue.
On Thursday, Madigan released a statement on Rauner’s decision:
“It is good the House set the wheels in motionon Wednesdayfor a Committee of the Whole hearing on agency preparations for the government shutdown.
“It seems the Governor missed an opportunity to avoid disrupting the lives of many, many middle-class families for the sake ofnon budget issues.
“These non budget issuesthat have been thoroughly debated. Some were adopted by the House. Others were rejected when there was no persuasive case made,” Madigan’s statement said.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees blasted the governor’s move.
“For Governor Rauner to veto the budget without any effort tocompromise shows a disappointing disregard for public safety, childprotection, care for veterans and the elderly, or any of the otherimportant services that state government provides,” said union spokesman Anders Lindall.
“Instead, Gov. Raunerappears determined to hold public services hostage to further hispolitical agenda of weakening the rights and driving down the incomesof everyday working people.”
This is Rauner’s accompanying message:
Today I veto House Bill 4146 from the 99th General Assembly in order to protect Illinois taxpayers from an unbalanced and therefore unconstitutional budget. The Speaker of the House and President of the Senate have admitted that the General Assembly’s budget is unbalanced.The Governor’s Office of Management and Budget concurs, calculating that this budget is nearly $4 billion out of balance. For too long, the State of Illinois has made spending promises that exceed available revenues, relied on accounting gimmicks to make budgets appear balanced, used borrowing and cost-deferral strategies to push costs into the future, and delayed payments to vendors. This has generated significant backlogs of unpaid bills and a crushing debt burden of well over $100 billion. Because of past fiscal mismanagement, Illinois is experiencing the worst fiscal crisis in America, highlighted by Illinois being assigned the worst credit rating of any state. The State of Illinois will be forced to pay more than $6 billion in debt payments in Fiscal Year 2016 due to years of fiscal neglect and overspending. A balanced budget is the only way to responsibly protect taxpayers and put the State on a path to once again using its resources for important public services rather than interest and debt service. A balanced budget is not just good practice, it is a constitutional requirement: Appropriations for a fiscal year shall not exceed funds estimated by the General Assembly to be available during that year.Ill. Const. art. VIII, sec. 2(b). Although the General Assembly has chosen to disregard its constitutional obligation, as Governor I cannot approve a budget that violates this fundamental principle. We must be partners in enacting a balanced budget that meets critical public needs within the resources available. The surest way to do that is by enacting structural reforms inside government and economic reforms that stimulate our economy and bring new jobs to Illinois. Therefore, pursuant to Section 9(b) of Article IV of the Illinois Constitution of 1970, I hereby return House Bill 4146, entitled AN ACT making appropriations, with the foregoing objections, vetoed in its entirety.