It almost seems cruel to bring this up right now, but with the election over, there’s no avoiding it any longer.
Illinois still needs a real budget.
While we were distracted by the presidential campaign, the state has been zipping right through that six-month “stopgap” spending plan approved in June after a year without any kind of budget.
The stopgap will expire Dec. 31, and then we’re right back in the mess we were before then with no funding for social service providers, public universities and other various pieces of state government.
In that vein, the folks from the Civic Committee stopped by the newspaper Tuesday to explain their “LOL Illinois” campaign, which you may have seen on billboards or popping up on social media.
The campaign is targeted at rousing Illinois citizens to let their elected officials know they want Illinois to enact a “responsible, balanced budget.”
“This is not a laughing matter,” is the punch line for the campaign, from which you may deduce that LOL really does stand for Laughing Out Loud, although Land of Lincoln works, too, as long as they get your attention.
“Lots of luck” is what Northern Trust Chairman and CEO Frederick Waddell said he thought it meant when he first saw the proposed campaign.
And lots of luck may still be what it takes to get Gov. Bruce Rauner and Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan to work out an agreement.
With no signs of a thaw in their standoff, Rauner has called Madigan and the other legislative leaders together next Monday to resume talks.
The governor is expected to seek daily negotiations for the next two weeks. That’s fine, but I will be surprised if we’re not still having this discussion into the New Year with a slim possibility of getting something accomplished during the Legislature’s lame duck session in January.
There’s plenty of reasons for both sides to work out their differences. Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger has said the state’s backlog of unpaid bills will reach $13 billion next year. Some predict even higher.
Democrats seem to be banking on the governor caving in before the backlog is completely beyond hope of repair. But that’s their problem, too, as is an anticipated $205 million state payment for Chicago teacher pensions, which is contingent on some kind of deal (unless Democrats can override a Rauner veto.)
Although comprised of Chicago business leaders, the Civic Committee is trying to avoid picking sides in the Rauner-Madigan fight or even to offer specific policy prescriptions until asked. And so far, they say they haven’t been asked, which I take as another bad sign.
As before, the state won’t grind to a halt without a budget, because of legal restrictions and court orders that keep most of the money flowing.
But social service providers will be again be forced to carry the state on their collective backs by providing services without getting paid — or in the alternative, go out of business, as was previously the case.
Andrea Durbin, spokeswoman for the Pay Now Illinois coalition that filed suit against the state in an unsuccessful effort to force payment, said the stopgap provided some temporary and partial relief to the agencies she represents.
But the state mostly just caught up to what it owed them for the 2016 fiscal year that ended on June 30, with nothing paid toward services provided since July 1.
Durbin’s own youth services agency was able to pay off its line of credit, but now is forced to borrow again to fund its state operations.
It’s unclear how many social service providers — or the clients they serve — could survive another six months without funding after the battering they took a year ago.
As they say, this is not a laughing matter.Tweets by @MarkBrownCST