Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Illinois

Illinois lawmakers, who have two days to pass a bill before becoming the first state since the Great Depression to go more than a year without a budget, were greeted by a rare push by nearly 60 newspapers to get the job done.
Newspapers from the Chicago Sun-Times to the Peoria Journal-Star joined in to turn up the pressure on legislators to get something passed as they reconvened on Wednesday morning. “Enough” read the pointed, one-word headline for an editorial that was the only story on the cover of The State Journal-Register, which is located in the state capital of Springfield and led the joint editorial effort on Wednesday.
The state’s Republican governor and Democratic legislature have been deadlocked over the state’s finances for over a year and are two days away from failing to pass a state budget for the second year in a row, at midnight on June 30.
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“Illinois’ people cannot be held hostage for a second year without a budget. Voters must revolt,” wrote the Journal Register’s editorial board.
For the next 48 hours, the legislature will consider two bills that could provide a quick and temporary fix. A $50.3 billion stopgap budget proposal would provide funding for basic government services like prisons and State Police for six months, including an increase in funding for public schools. A second bill will fund college scholarships, higher education and human services.
In the run-up to the final-hour legislative session, spokespeople for political rivals Gov. Bruce Rauner and Speaker Michael Madigan said they were hopeful something would be passed.
For the past year, certain core functions have continued to operate thanks to a series of court orders and limited legislative actions, but the state’s backlog of bills now stands at around $8 billion, according to the comptroller’s office.
Without a spending plan, roadwork through the Illinois Department of Transportation ground to a halt last week. Thousands of social-service providers have closed programs over the past year, from substance abuse treatment to elderly care, and the struggling Chicago Public Schools said it could start the school year late if funding is delayed.
The stalemate has made Illinois the first state since the Great Depression to go a full year without a budget, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
“We felt like we really needed to do something dramatic to try and amplify the message,” said State Journal-Register editor Angie Muhs. “This was pretty unprecedented.”

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