Mt. Vernon Register-News

State News

June 15, 2009

Latest Ill. budget impass raises new questions

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Two weeks after the spring legislative session ended, Illinois still doesn’t have a new state budget, and it doesn’t look like it will have one anytime soon. Gov. Pat Quinn and legislative leaders are struggling to find some consensus on dealing with a record-breaking budget deficit.

Their decisions will affect tax rates for millions of Illinoisans, aid to the sick and needy, and a broad array of government services across the state.

Here’s a look at where things stand:

Q: How bad is the state’s financial situation?

A: Worse than ever. The combined budget deficit for this year and the next is at least $11.6 billion. Federal money and proposed spending cuts will fill that hole a bit, but state officials still face a gap of roughly $7 billion.

Q: Didn’t the Legislature pass a budget?

A: Sort of. They approved a level of spending that doesn’t come close to covering state government’s expenses, but they haven’t technically sent the budget to Quinn’s desk. That budget doesn’t specify where to make the enormous cuts that would be necessary to balance state expenses and income. That problem would simply be dumped in Quinn’s lap.

Q: So what’s happening now?

A: Rank-and-file lawmakers have been sent home. Quinn and legislative leaders are meeting about once a week in Chicago to discuss the situation. There have been no signs of significant progress.

Q: What are lawmakers’ options?

A: They could agree on some mix of tax increases and spending cuts. They could stick with the budget that legislators approved and let Quinn figure out where to make cuts. Or they could use that budget as a placeholder and pass a new version when they convene in six months.

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