It’s starting to look like Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and Gov. Bruce Rauner have a better chance of revving up a couple of old Plymouth Colts and completing an Evel Knievel jump across the missing Illinois 157 bridge over St. Clair Avenue than they do of passing a 2017 budget by Friday.
That replacement bridge in Fairview Heights is one of many state highway projects about to come to a screeching halt when the 2016 fiscal year ends. Illinois went a whole year without a budget. It is starting 2017 without a budget, but this time there is no authority to fund $130.6 million in local highway projects and no authority to fund schools like there was last year.
Belleville Elementary District 118 is in the process of alerting parents that school may not start in August, or that if it starts they may have to close in November after reserves are depleted. Other school districts are facing similar choices, but it is worse in poor districts that live from state check to state check because they have little in reserves or property taxes.
Rauner is pushing a pair of bills that would allow state spending until after the November elections. Madigan is showing no interest and is choosing to build power out of failure. The budget working groups keep plodding along with no sense of urgency and no clue that Illinois will crash and burn on Friday.
When it does, expect construction project costs to mushroom as sites are secured and abandoned. When work does resume, some work will need to be redone and some will be delayed as Illinois tries to draw back contractors who moved on to other jobs.
When it does, expect working parents to scramble for day care or be forced to take off work to care for idled students. Expect an economic dip as a large chunk of Illinois’ 135,000 teachers are idled.
And when it does, the Illinois Lottery will try to sell tickets with a 1 in 20 million chance of winning an IOU.
Can wreckage possibly be what the folks in Springfield want? Does the desire to spend $7 billion more than they have really outweigh the human costs their inaction is precipitating?