September , 2018

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No Budget Deal, No Checks For Those Who Can Least Afford to Miss Them

By Illinois State Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger

As the state’s Chief Financial Officer, I manage the state’s checkbook. This can be quite a challenge in the State of Illinois where we are nearly $6 billion behind in paying the state’s bills.

It will get much worse if the General Assembly and the Governor don’t reach a budget agreement the next 2 ½ weeks.

Faced with the very real possibility we will enter the new fiscal year July 1 without a budget, I have been meeting with staff and my legal team in recent weeks to create a contingency plan and identify the ramifications for the state.  The Illinois Constitution is very clear that without appropriation authority, I will be unable to carry out the core function of my office and ensure that the state meets its financial obligations.

There are provisions that will allow me to pay some bills. We will make the state’s debt and pension payments. The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Assistance for the Aged, Blind and Disabled Programs will continue. And we can keep making payments not tied to a budget appropriation, like federal grants that simply pass through the state for review.

But nearly all other payments will stop on July 1. There will be very real consequences for taxpayers and organizations across Illinois – and sadly, it will most hurt those who can least afford it:

* Nonprofits and small businesses – those that can least afford it – will lose opportunities for expedited payments.

* Medicaid payments will stop.

* State employees will miss their first paycheck on July 15, and then again on July 31. They will be expected to show up for work with no idea of when they’ll be paid.

* School Aid payments will be delayed if the impasse continues to August 10.

* And vendors will eventually see their payments stop. In a sad testament to our fiscal situation, vendors are already waiting weeks for payment – so they will not immediately notice that bills in the new fiscal year are not being processed.

This doesn’t need to happen. I implore the General Assembly to avoid causing this unnecessary hardship and work with the Governor to pass a balanced budget.

It is not acceptable to move forward with the budget approved by the General Assembly that is $3.5 billion short of funds. It is that kind of half-baked spending plan that put us in this position in the first place.

It is essential that we enact structural reforms that will make Illinois more competitive and grow our tax base, because ultimately, that is the way to dig out of this mess. We have to expand our tax base to meet our obligations, and stop shaking down taxpayers every time there is a budget shortfall.

I do understand the importance of identifying revenue to fill the state’s existing budget hole. But as we’ve seen before, more revenue without reforms will do nothing to address our long-term challenges.

I come from the private sector, and I have been stunned and disappointed by the inactivity and needless theater in Springfield. I am her to remind all involved that this isn’t a game to be won or lost – their rhetoric, posturing, and decisions have grave implications on people and communities across the state.

So far, they have failed at their jobs, and their failure prevents me from doing my job.


Image was created by the Illinois Office of the Comptroller
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