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No state budget yet, but largely business as usual

By Doug Finke, State Capitol Bureau
Posted on 6/29/2015, 8:50 AM

With just three days left before the start of the state's new fiscal year, Illinois lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner are fast running out of time to end their impasse and put a new state budget in place.

The Democratic-controlled General Assembly passed a budget that is $3 billion to $4 billion out of balance, and Rauner last week vetoed all but the portion covering elementary and secondary education.

However, even if a new budget isn't approved by Wednesday, most Illinoisans may not notice any immediate difference.

State prisons will continue to operate. Drivers will still be able to get licenses renewed at secretary of state facilities. Even checks will continue to be issued by the comptroller's office, although not for any bills that are submitted for work or services done starting Wednesday.

"Shutdown is a pretty relative term when you look at the things that will continue operating anyway," said Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine. "I don't think you'll see what people have in their minds as a government shutdown coming because so much of the government will operate anyway."

Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville, said he's already fielded calls in his district office from state workers concerned about missing paychecks.

"There will be a lot of angst out there, a lot of concern, and rightfully so," Sullivan said. "On July 1, we're probably not going to see too many dramatic changes. There are going to be people very concerned. I don't want to downplay that."

The Rauner administration is expecting state workers to continue coming to work on Wednesday and beyond even if a new state budget is not in place. The Republican governor's administration had surveyed agencies on possible contingency plans in the event of a strike or lockout over a new labor contract.

However, the administration and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 have agreed to continue negotiations on a new contract through July with no strike or lockout.

Secretary of State Jesse White's office will remain open for business, spokesman Dave Druker said.

"We are asking all employees to show up at work, whether there's a budget or not," Druker said.

He added that the office has never closed driver's license facilities during previous instances when the state started a new fiscal year without a budget in place.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office likewise will remain open, spokeswoman Natalie Bauer said.

"We have 30,000 lawsuits pending. We have attorneys in court every day," Bauer said. "We're a significant revenue generator for the state."

The office brought in $1.3 billion from fines and settlements through the year.

Treasurer Mike Frerichs' office will be open even without a budget. Comptroller Leslie Munger's office will continue operating and will continue processing checks for bills submitted for work done before Wednesday.

"The comptroller is asking employees to continue working," spokesman Rich Carter said. "We can still pay for anything in (the current fiscal year). For most vendors in the state and organizations, with a $5 billion backlog, it's going to take time to pay them. We'll keep working to continue paying bills."

Some wiggle room

The first state payroll checks for work done in the new fiscal year aren't due to be issued until July 15. Even without a budget, certain bills, such as pension checks for retirees, payments on the state's debt and money due to local governments, will continue to be paid. Recipients of Temporary Aid to Needy Families and Aid to the Aged, Blind or Disabled will also continue receiving aid.

Carter said that organizations that hold state contracts to provide a wide variety of human services will likely feel the crunch first. In many cases, the state has already expedited payments to those organizations, meaning they are more current in state payments than other vendors.

"Once they are all caught up, we will not be able to pay them," Carter said. "There's some lag time from when they submit a bill (until they are paid). It's hard to say how long it's going to take them to exhaust their money."

Judith Gethner, executive director of Illinois Partners for Human Service, said many organizations have been issued new state contracts that guarantee payments once a new budget is in place, while others have not. In those cases, she said, an organization may deliver services with no guarantee of eventually being paid.

Moreover, she said, agencies can't be sure a final budget will include enough money to cover the dollar amount contained in the contract. In the meantime, organizations must rely on lines of credit or cash reserves in order to keep operating.

"You've watched human services get decimated since 2009. You know they've exhausted lines of credit," Gethner said. "How many payrolls can they make without having the budget passed? They are going to deliver services in July, but they don't know when they are going to get paid."

Jan Gambach, president of Mental Health Centers of Central Illinois, said the state still owes the organization money for past services, but the organization does have cash reserves on hand.

"We have done very well where we've worked trying to save for a rainy day," she said. "We can survive for at least the next two or three months."

Lawmakers return Tuesday

The General Assembly will return to Springfield on Tuesday, the last day of the current fiscal year. The legislature is also scheduled to be in session Wednesday.

Lawmakers from both parties said they want to avoid any semblance of a government shutdown, although the means to reach a budget agreement remain elusive.

"I lived through three federal government shutdowns as a federal employee," said Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, who was district chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis of Taylorville. "These are not things I think are worthwhile. I don't think you are going to see the same type of shutdown that you saw at the federal level, but I do think if we get into the next fiscal year without a budget, people are going to start seeing an impact."

Rep. Raymond Poe, R-Springfield, said he's already getting calls from state workers concerned about possible missed paychecks. Poe said that if a permanent budget can't be hammered out quickly, he hopes that a temporary budget can be passed to ensure state payments can be made. Rauner, though, has ruled out the idea of a temporary budget.

Before Rauner vetoed the bulk of the state budget last week, Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, said he hoped the governor would sign parts of it that don't rely on general state taxes. Licensing for many professions, for example, relies on fees paid by those receiving licenses rather than income or sales taxes.

"We'll see (Rauner's) style of negotiations on (Tuesday) and (Wednesday)," Mautino said. "That's really where that's going to play itself out. A lot of bad thing don't have to happen, but they can. It really depends on how far the governor wants to push the noneconomic items."

— Seth A. Richardson of the State Capitol Bureau contributed to this report. Contact Doug Finke:, 788-1527,

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