One of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s chief budget negotiators is trying to put the kibosh to a rumor that there’s an effort to pass a six-month budget to get through the November elections.
While fingers continue to point across the aisle and at Gov. Bruce Rauner for the current budget being more than $1.5 billion out of balance, state Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, said he’s heard some rumblings about a stopgap budget.
“I’ve heard some people mention that we might have a short-term budget to get us through the [November] election,” Butler said. “I certainly don’t think that’s the way to go.”
Butler said lawmakers aren’t supposed to pass temporary budgets. They’re supposed to pass full year balanced budgets, per the state constitution.
“There are a lot of rumors going around,” state Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, said. “I think that our idea would be to pass a full year’s budget. That’s what we’re supposed to do.”
Harris said upcoming budget talks are already in the hole because of unappropriated spending from fiscal 2017.
Harris said Rauner’s agencies revealed more than a billion dollars in unappropriated spending. Rauner has said it’s the budget lawmakers imposed on taxpayers over his veto that’s out of whack.
Regardless, ratings agency S&P analyst Gabe Petek said Illinois hasn’t had a conventional budget in three years. It also hasn't had a balanced budget since 2001.
“Now that you’re talking about passing a budget in an election year, I’m not a political analyst, but I have to think it doesn’t help smooth the process,” Petek said.
Lawmakers didn’t pass a full year’s budget for fiscal years 2016 or 2017 at all. They only passed stopgap and temporary budgets. Petek said the current fiscal 2018 budget wasn’t conventional because it was imposed on taxpayers by lawmakers overriding the governor’s veto.
The current budget also spends the entirety of a $5 billion income tax increase imposed on taxpayers over the governor’s veto, doing little to pay off the state's backlog of unpaid bills or chip away at the state's $130 billion in unfunded pension liability.
On Feb. 14, Rauner delivers his budget address for the coming fiscal year that begins July 1 to both the House and Senate.
The state's fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30.