Illinois Senate President John Cullerton

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton

AP FILE PHOTO

SPRINGFIELD — In a sign that Illinois may need to raise taxes by as much as $5 billion, figures released Thursday show the state is on track to spend $38 billion this fiscal year even though there is no budget in place.

But because of the expiration in January of the state's temporary tax increase, the state is on track to bring in $33 billion this budget year.

That leaves a massive gap that lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner will need to fill using either cuts or tax increases or a combination of both.

According to an analysis issued Thursday by Senate President John Cullerton's office, nearly 90 percent of state spending has now been committed because of court rulings and Rauner administration actions, even though the governor and lawmakers have failed to agree on a spending plan.

For example, a federal judge recently ordered the state to pay Medicaid providers who serve children in Cook County. Rauner then announced the state would expand those payments to providers serving children throughout the state.

The net result of those actions means $7.8 billion is being spent on Medicaid despite the lack of a budget, the analysis stated.

In another example of how court rulings have forced the state pay out money even though a budget doesn't exist, a St. Clair County judge in July ordered Comptroller Leslie Munger to continue to pay state workers during the impasse.

State Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, said the numbers show why a negotiated budget is important.

"By outright rejecting the budget and offering no alternatives, the governor abdicated responsibility and now the courts have stepped in to force a budget on the state," Biss said.

In response, the governor's office issued a statement noting that Rauner asked the Legislature to support numerous proposals that would result in billions of dollars of savings to the state, including adjustments to Medicaid provider rates, reductions in the amount the state spends on units of local government, pension changes, workers' compensation changes and a revamp to state employee health insurance.

"None of those proposals have been enacted by the legislature. None," the statement noted.

The report says the remaining 10 percent that is unaccounted for in state spending consists of $1.9 billion for higher education, $2 billion for social service grants and programs and $1.2 billion in grants for schools and other programs.

On Wednesday, attorneys for Rauner agreed that running the state via court orders was bad policy.

"Essentially, we have a government that is increasingly run by federal courts, plaintiffs' lawyers and court monitors," Associate General Counsel Donovan Borvan told members of the House Revenue and Finance Committee.

An attorney for plaintiffs who receive services from the state said intervention from the judicial branch is sometimes necessary when the state fails to do its job.

"When people's rights are violated, we're going to go to court to try and protect them," said Benjamin Wolf, associate legal counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union.

Borvan said there are as many as 80 consent decrees affecting the state.

"We're spending vast amounts of money without appropriation," he said.

The judicial spending orders, known as consent decrees, will be under a microscope again Monday when the committee meets in Chicago to continue reviewing court cases that have resulted in the state being committed to spending money regardless if it is budgeted.

The hearing, chaired by state Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.

0
0
0
0
0