On Wednesday state lawmakers will return to Springfield because Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner called them back for a 10-day special session before the new fiscal year begins July 1, which we might also label “last stop before the abyss.”
They left town May 31 after the Illinois House failed to even bring a budget proposal to the floor for a vote. Without a special session, Illinois would begin a third fiscal year without a budget, watch its record bill backlog of $15.1 billion grow even more and have its bonds downgraded to junk status — meaning our massive debt will cost even more in interest.
We’ve seen 721 days pass without a budget in Illinois. You’ve got to wonder whether anyone really has an interest in seeing this Mexican standoff end within the next 10.
Two sides can always find a solution if they get in the same room and sit there until they find common ground. But that requires two sides that want to find a resolution.
Right now we’ve only got judges ordering spending on specific bills, which control about 90 percent of the state’s current spending. The situation may quickly get much worse as U.S. District Court Judge Joan Lefkow has signaled she is miffed that the state owes $2 billion to Medicaid providers while it still has money to pay lawmakers and other state employees.
She might issue an order any day that triggers an extreme reaction.
The reaction could be good if state lawmakers and employees stop getting their checks and their shrieks create the political will to finally pass a budget. The reaction could be really bad if the order sets off a series of financial implosions that eventually forces federal lawmakers to figure out how a state declares bankruptcy.
In the fantasy of Illinois, Rauner enters the statehouse with leaders of both chambers, some Illinois State Police troopers pile up boxes of pizza and cases of water before they chain and padlock the doors. The leaders remain locked in until there’s a budget deal.
The Office of the State Fire Marshal wouldn’t object to chaining fire exits because lawmakers have shown no ill effects from fires breaking out all over the state.
But Springfield has delivered so little of substance over this 100th General Assembly, that it’s hard to hold any hope that they will do anything but collect their $111 a day stipend for being called back into session. There’s another $196,470 to add to the bill pile, plus mileage.