Facing a “severe cash shortage,” Illinois is unable to pay social service agencies what they’re owed by the state — despite a recent court order compelling it to do so.
Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger’s office, which is charged with paying the state’s bills, said Monday that it could not find the funds to immediately comply with a federal judge’s order that the state make payments to more than 10,000 residents with developmental disabilities.
“The cash flow right now is very low,” spokesman Rich Carter told the Chicago Sun-Times. “We just don’t have the money. We’re extremely concerned about that.”
Advocacy groups went to court arguing the state’s failure to make payments to agencies providing services to those with disabilities put providers at risk of closure. Closure could displace thousands of people with profound developmental disabilities.
Citing a recent legislative analysis, Carter said the state is on pace to run a deficit of $5 billion. He said the office is prioritizing payments for nonprofits.
“Right now the severe cash shortages created by the budget impasse are preventing us from making those payments. We are extremely concerned about our non-profits,” he said. “Bottom line: Because of the combination of the continuing appropriations we have to pay, along with the court orders, along with the loss of the income tax revenue, we’re facing significant cash shortages right now. That will continue until we have a budget agreement.”
The state had not made a payment to the providers since the new fiscal year started July 1.
U.S. District Judge Sharon Coleman ordered the Comptroller’s office to pay the first installment by Friday.
That hasn’t happened, according to Barry Taylor of Equip for Equality, who is representing plaintiffs in the case involving developmentally disabled residents.
“We believe the fact that they haven’t paid is a violation of … the court order,” Taylor said Monday. “We’re evaluating our legal options. We haven’t received any official explanation from the state as to why they’re not complying with the order.”
Carter said he does not believe the office is violating the order.
Coleman’s order is just one example of how Illinois is paying its bills – by court mandate — since Illinois lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner were unable to reach a budget agreement. Rauner vetoed a Democrat-authored financial plan in June, saying it was out of balance by some $4 billion. The new fiscal year came and went July 1 without a new plan in place. Both sides say they’re willing to negotiate, but remain locked into their positions. Rauner wants a series of changes to benefit businesses and weaken unions in Illinois. Democrats oppose the proposals and say they shouldn’t be attached to a budget.
A recent analysis by Senate Democrats indicates that because of various contracts, decrees and court orders compelling spending, the state had already committed 90 percent of its revenues and was on pace to be $5 billion in the hole.
State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, often a swing vote in the Democrat-controlled Illinois House, called for Rauner on Monday order a special session — and not allow lawmakers to go home until a balanced budget is passed.
“We’ve allowed the courts to take over for the General Assembly,” Franks said. “We’ve been sidetracked. We’re not keeping our eye on the ball. …We’re sitting here playing these stupid political games. … Soon our social service agencies will be closing their doors.”
Rauner has denounced the spending levels, but he remains opposed to calling a special session, citing the cost, according to his office.
“The governor is ready to negotiate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to reach an agreement that produces cost-saving reforms, a better jobs climate and a balanced budget,” spokeswoman Catherine Kelly wrote in an email. “Those negotiations don’t require a special session, which costs tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars per day, to be called. All that’s required is independent, reform-minded legislators to come to the table.”
The Illinois House is set to meet in a Committee of the Whole on Tuesday. Lawmakers say it’s unlikely the chamber will vote this week on whether to override Rauner’s veto of a bill allowing arbitration in public union negotiations.