On the 702nd day in Illinois without a budget, the state Legislature and governor again did nothing.
No budget. No relief. No sanity.
Wednesday was the final day of the regular spring legislative session, but the Democrat-controlled House and Senate failed to approve a budget — and Gov. Bruce Rauner failed right along with them. Nobody had the courage to give or concede enough.
Now the Legislature will move into a June overtime session, when a three-fifths majority is required to pass bills, and Illinois will continue to hobble along. At best, we fear, the Legislature and governor will patch together another feeble stop-gap spending plan. It will offer no stability or predictability which, after two years without a state budget, is what Illinois businesses, schools, universities and social services agencies are begging for.
Every miserable consequence, piling up as in the numbers below, will grow only worse.
180,000: Number of unpaid bills in Illinois as of Wednesday.
$14.5 billion: Dollar damage of those unpaid bills. The backlog has tripled since 2015 and, at this pace, will reach $28 billion by 2021. At that time, it will consume 80 percent of the state’s budget.
7 months: Average wait for a bill to be paid by the state. Illinois is now paying bills for October 2016.
9 to 12 percent: The high interest rate Illinois must pay, by law, on overdue bills.
$800 million: Interest due on the state’s unpaid bills.
6: Number of credit rating downgrades Illinois has incurred since the budgeting impasse began. Illinois now has the worst credit rating of any state in the country. Illinois is in danger of plunging into junk bond status.
$952 million: Money Illinois has promised but failed to pay to human service agencies over the last two years, short-changing care for the disabled, the poor and the elderly.
69: Percentage of social service agencies that have received no or only partial payment from the state in fiscal year 2017. This compares to 35 percent last fiscal year.
46: Percentage of agencies that have cut back on the number of clients they serve.
25: Percentage of agencies that have eliminated entire programs, such as for training for the unemployed and assistance to the elderly.
19: Percentage of agencies that have laid off staff because of delays and cuts in state funding.
57,000 cops: Their police training classes, across the state, were canceled.
$4. 6 billion: Amount the state is behind in paying health insurance claims for employees and retirees. Doctors and dentists, who say the delayed payments threaten to put them out of business, are demanding that patients pay upfront.
80 percent: Reduced funding, based on 2015 levels, that public universities have received under the last stop-gap state budget.
6: In April, S&P Global Ratings downgraded the creditworthiness of six state universities — The University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, Northeastern Illinois University, Eastern Illinois University, Southern Illinois University, Western Illinois University and Governor’s State University.
180 employees: Number Northeastern University announced it will lay off this summer because of a $10.8 million shortfall in state funding.
40 percent: Proportion of employees laid off at Chicago State University in 2016, to a significant degree because of reduced and inconsistent state funding.
16,461 students: They all left Illinois to go to college someplace else in 2015, while only 2,117 out-of-state students came to Illinois. University administrators say the exodus continues and can be blamed in part on university funding uncertainties, and the accompanying hit to the reputation of the state’s universities.
1,000 students: They failed to return to college for a second semester last year because grant funding for low-income students was frozen. Another 124,000 students stiffed by the state on their Monetary Assistance Program grants managed to remain in school only because the university or college fronted them the money, hoping the state would be good for it eventually.
4.7 percent: That’s the unemployment rate in Illinois, higher than in all its Midwestern neighbors except Kentucky. Business leaders have stressed to the Sun-Times Editorial Board repeatedly that while they’d love to see lower taxes and a loosening of regulations, what they require above all is governmental and taxation stability and predictability.
6: Number of Illinois small business development centers that closed for lack of funding in the last two years. Seven remain.
$850 million: This is what Illinois owes public schools across the state for “categorical” programs such as special education, transportation, bilingual services and early childhood education. The state did not make its September 2016 quarterly payment until April of this year. When will the December and March payments be made? Nobody knows.
$454.8 million: That’s what the state owes Chicago area’s Regional Transportation Authority, forcing the RTA to borrow to keep trains and buses running. The cost of this short-term borrowing is $950,919. Remember that when fares go up.
37,508 people: They all moved out of Illinois in 2016, the most residents lost by any state. It was Illinois’ third straight year of population decline. Leading the decline — for the third year in a row — was the City of Chicago, which lost 8,638 residents from 2015 to 2016. Of the 10 largest cities in the country, Chicago was the only one to see a drop in population.
The longer the Legislature and governor refuse to do this most basic of jobs — settle on a budget — the more a once proud state falls irreversibly behind.
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