The Illinois General Assembly ended the spring legislative session without resolving Illinois’ FY16 budget crisis. They will now go into a continuous summer session until a resolution is found. If they don’t find one, devastating cuts to vital programs and social services will go into effect on July 1, 2015.
The problem is a $6 billion dollar budget deficit created when the state’s 5% income tax rate dropped to 3.75% in January 2015. This decrease produced a tax break which disproportionately benefits the wealthy but leaves the state, already struggling to meet its obligations, in a revenue crisis.
The Governor and the General Assembly have many revenue options available to them that will produce a responsible state budget, with adequate revenue to avoid cuts and invest in Illinois’ future.
The solution proposed by Governor Rauner in his February budget address was morally unacceptable. The Governor’s proposal called for $6 billion in budget cuts impacting after school programs, Medicaid, higher education, and other vital social services people’s lives depend on. This proposal was rejected by communities across the state, who demanded the Governor and legislative leadership work together on a budget that avoids cuts by generating new revenue.
Community Renewal Society, as a member of the Responsible Budget Coalition, joined this fight by participating in public actions throughout the spring and calling for new state revenue during our May 12th Day of Faith at the Capitol.
Unfortunately, the fight for a fair and responsible budget is far from over. After Democratic legislative leaders failed to reach an agreement with the Governor by the end of the spring session on May 31, the Senate and House passed a budget that does not avoid cuts nor generate new revenue. Their budget plan, which passed with no Republican support, restores nearly $3.5 billion to the cuts proposed by the Governor but maintains over $2 billion in cuts. It was passed by both chambers in the last week of session, but neither the House nor the Senate passed a single revenue proposal to fund it. This proposal is irresponsible as it still contains hurtful cuts and fails to address the critical issue driving the budget crisis: the state of Illinois needs more revenue.
This budget plan will likely never become law. It is expected that the Governor will veto it and keep pushing for a deal that includes cuts, perhaps some revenue, and items from his political agenda (workers comp reform, tort reform, a property tax freeze, etc.) Legislative leaders and the Governor appear poised for a long summer of public attacks and private negotiations that they hope will lead to a compromise. Meanwhile, those who will be affected by the impending cuts are left hoping the program or service they need does not end up on the chopping block at the negotiation table. Time is running out as the FY16 budget is supposed to take effect July 1 and the state’s first payroll obligations kick in on July 15.
The State of Illinois is in a budget crisis. The only responsible solution that avoids destructive cuts to programs and services needed by the most vulnerable in our communities is to pass a budget with new revenues. CRS will continue to challenge legislative leaders and Governor Rauner to #chooserevenue. This is the only morally acceptable way to move forward.