It's the last day of the fiscal year for the State of Illinois, which means the pressure is on for Gov. Pat Quinn to sign a new budget into law.
There's nothing on the governor's public schedule for today, but that doesn't mean he won't be busy making official the spending plan passed by his fellow Democrats in the General Assembly.
It makes sense that Quinn wouldn't want to hold a big ceremony drawing attention to it. He had wanted lawmakers to extend Illinois' 5-percent income tax rate, beyond its scheduled rollback halfway through the new fiscal year.
How much you'll pay in state taxes next year remains an open question, even as the Illinois House Thursday approved dozens of spending bills, that rely on a permanently higher tax rate. It sets the stage for a budget battle, just weeks before legislators are set to adjourn for the summer.
The Illinois House convened at 8 o’clock Thursday morning, and spent most of a very long day on the budget. Lawmakers began with a debate on funding Illinois' public education system, giving schools a slight increase over this year.
The two men dueling to be Illinois' next governor tried Thursday to win over business leaders with their plans for the state's finances. They both made appearances before a joint meeting of Illinois' retailers and manufacturers in Springfield.
Quinn got a standing ovation as he took the stage, but the response after that was lukewarm.
Just before Quinn's speech, several business owners had been at the podium, complaining about Illinois' high unemployment rate, regulations and taxes.
The two men vying for governor disagree on a lot of issues, most notably what to do about Illinois' budget. Still, it's hard to compare the two, because one plan doesn't seem to exist.
It was nearly a month ago, at an event for Sangamon County Republicans that the party's nominee, Bruce Rauner, said "we'll be coming out with a comprehensive plan, that will be recommending about what we should change in our regulations and in our tax code and in our spending structure, in the, in … relatively near future."
Plenty can, and will, happen before voters go to the polls in November to chose their next governor. But a central theme of the campaign emerged Wednesday, when Gov. Pat Quinn proposed making permanent what was supposed to have been a temporary hike in the state's income tax. His Republican opponent, Bruce Rauner, favors letting the increase lapse. Their competing visions mean a lot is at stake ahead of the upcoming election, as well as for the state's future.
The Illinois legislature's discussions over state spending are getting heated. On Friday, Lawmakers heard from agencies facing massive budget cuts.
Eight agency heads told Senators how painful it'd be to cut 20 percent from their operations. That figure is based on a projected billion-dollar shortfall next year, when the temporary income tax hike begins to sunset.
It could mean less funding to schools, fewer state police patrols, closure of prisons and mass layoffs.
When state treasurer Dan Rutherford announced a run for governor, the Republican left his seat wide open. Two GOP candidates are vying for that party’s nomination on Tuesday.
Former House minority leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) left his position in the fall to run for treasurer. He's promising to use a new tool to force a balanced budget: The threat of suing the General Assembly and the governor.
Cross says having that card in his back pocket will make sure the state doesn’t spend more than it takes in, like the state's constitution mandates.
When politicians talk about budgets, someone invariably brings up the idea of across the board spending cuts. It's easy to understand. it also plays into an inherent fear of big government.
WUIS' Sean Crawford talked with Chris Mooney, the Director of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois. Mooney wrote about the topic as part of a new project called the Illinois Budget Policy Toolbox.
Mooney says across the board cutting is more complicated than it seems.
The Illinois House took a key first step in the state budgeting process Tuesday.
It adopted what's called a "revenue estimate" — how much money Illinois is expected to be able to spend in the next fiscal year.
The cap, of $34.495 billion, is significant in several ways: It's about a billion less than last year's number, which means lawmakers are going to have extend the tax increase or find other sources of money, or they'll have to make a lot of cuts. On the other hand, it's not as bad as some people had feared.
The top Democrat in the Illinois Senate on Monday went on the offensive over state spending. Senate President John Cullerton is calling out the Republicans running for governor.
Cullerton laid out the hits expected in next year's budget, including the roll back of the income tax hike and mandatory spending increases on things like personnel and healthcare for the poor. Add it up, Cullerton says, and it's a nearly $3 billion hole.
Illinois' pension overhaul is tied up in a court challenge. But even if it remains law, cuts to state employees' and public school teachers' retirement benefits will not solve the state's budget problem. That's the forecast from a report issued today by the University of Illinois' Institute for Government and Public Affairs. Amanda Vinicky spoke with the report's principle author, economist Richard Dye.
About five hundred Springfield students were forced out of the public schools last month for failing to have required physicals and immunizations. The number has since dropped to 87 kids missing classes. The deadline was October 15th. School board member Mike Zimmers says the policy should be changed for next year to have the deadline before school gets underway.
"Parents just need to plan, you know when they start thinking about ... we need to get school clothes or school supplies -- in your mindset just think, we need to get physicals, we need to get shots,” said Zimmers.
An Illinois government panel trying to help the state set spending priorities is already at work on next year's budget. But after two years, the group is still waiting for the chance to make its mark on spending.
The idea behind Budgeting for Results is to focus state spending on agencies and programs that meet a list of seven priorities, like education or public safety.
But although the Budgeting for Results Commission has been meeting, taking testimony, and publishing reports for about two years, its work has yet to affect the budget.
Gov. Pat Quinn says lawmakers who didn't send him a pension overhaul bill have let down Illinois taxpayers. The Chicago Democrat set Tuesday as a deadline for a bipartisan pension panel to report back with a plan. That was even as members of the so-called conference committee formed last month called his deadline arbitrary and irresponsible. Quinn says there'll be consequences for lawmakers. He's declined to say exactly what he'd do.
After years of state budget cuts, Illinois schools will get roughly level funding under legislation signed into law Thursday. But Governor Pat Quinn says it's still not enough.
Earlier this year, Quinn said Illinois' budget problems meant the state had to reduce school spending. But lawmakers decided not to cut the education budget, in part because Illinois collected more taxes in April than it anticipated.
The extra money will go to elementary and high schools, community colleges, and public universities. It also funds MAP grants for needy college students.
Another key component of the Illinois state budget moved through the General Assembly on Wednesday. The Democrats' spending plan prevents what could have been steep cuts for schools, but Republicans say students outside Chicago are getting shortchanged.
Democrats are approving mostly level funding for elementary and high schools in Illinois. That's significant because education spending, like most areas of the state budget, has been cut in recent years. And Gov. Pat Quinn's budget proposal said even deeper cuts would be necessary.
Despite years of cuts to the Illinois state budget ... even more are ahead. Legislators are still deciding where else they can slash spending.
"Human services" is a legislative phrase Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) says covers:
HARRIS: "All the state departments dealing with health care, senior services, children services, so the Department of Healthcare and Family Services, Medicaid, human services, mental health, substance abuse, Department of Aging, DCFS, public health and veterans... "