Mt. Vernon Register-News

State News

June 29, 2009

Fiscal year deadline looms; does Illinois shut down?

By JOHN O’CONNOR

AP Political Writer

SPRINGFIELD — The state’s budget year ends Tuesday, and lawmakers are nowhere near a deal on a spending plan with Gov. Pat Quinn. Does that mean someone shuts off the lights of state government at midnight Tuesday?

In a word, no.

Construction crews likely will work on state highways even if Illinois lacks a budget on July 1. You’ll be able to get a fishing permit or renew your driver’s license. Public schools will continue planning for the fall semester.

But if the stalemate continues far into July, state employees’ pay runs dry. That’s when services could be interrupted across the state.

“You stop issuing paychecks, you have people not showing up to work, services not being provided — just think about transportation, secretary of state, human services — the consequences of that are going to be unthinkable,” said Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville.

With the state wallowing in red ink, Quinn, a Democrat, wants to raise the income tax rate to pay for government services. But he couldn’t get agreement from the Democratic-controlled Legislature, which instead passed a budget that would require drastic cuts in human service programs.

Budget talks have dragged on for weeks since then, with no real progress. Now legislators must decide whether to send Quinn a budget that slashes services, pass a temporary budget so talks can continue or simply let the new fiscal year begin without any spending plan in place.

“Stay tuned,” Quinn spokesman Bob Reed said Monday, adding that the governor “remains optimistic” that a new spending plan will be approved in time.

Even without a budget in place, government would continue to function normally, for a while.

It could still pay bills for expenses incurred under the previous budget.

Big projects such as road work will likely continue because they are typically tied to multiyear contracts. Building goes on with the understanding that payment will follow eventually, although contractors technically would be taking some risk.

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