Losing steam in State of Disarray

Welcome to Illinois Held Hostage: Day 54. Let’s review the damage so far.

Meals on Wheels for our elderly, after school programs for our urban teens, day care and other social programs were the first to crumble with the state money shut off. The East Side Health District cut a majority of its public health workers.

Some help arrived Thursday when Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill allowing federal funds to pass through state coffers despite the lack of a state budget, but there are still state dollars withheld from those social service agencies.

Now comes the second wave of damage, and it is hitting local governments.

Illinois video gambling still pulls in taxes, but the dollars can’t legally flow back to the local governments. The state owes metro-east communities nearly $250,000 in video gaming taxes.

Motor fuel taxes are shut off to local governments. The last month disbursed was June, and Belleville received $63,000, East St. Louis $38,000, O’Fallon $40,000 and Fairview Heights $24,000. The check will not be in the mail for July.

The sales tax breaks for the big development out by the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows are in limbo because the state’s economic development agency won’t act without a budget.

It gets worse: Senators just voted to override Rauner’s veto of a bill that will force him to use an arbitrator with current state union negotiations. Unlike arbitration that forges compromise, this model picks one side or the other, which is sure to be costly for taxpayers and strips the governor of his leverage. The House now has the veto override and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is pushing them hard in our very blue state.

Then there’s the revelation that the $4 billion deficit budget for 2016, which state lawmakers wanted to violate the constitution to pass, is now really a $5 billion deficit. Only in Springfield could they let $1 billion evaporate during the two-month period when they really shouldn’t be spending a dime.

Maybe we should start a statewide pool to bet on the day Illinois will pass a budget. At least the winner might be able to afford the state tax hikes we expect when Springfield gets finished with this trainwreck.