The Slatest

After Two Years, Illinois Finally Passes a Budget—No Thanks to Its Governor

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner

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After more than two years, lawmakers in Illinois finally passed a budget Thursday, but only after members of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s own party voted to override his veto. From NPR:

The budget negotiated by the Democrat-controlled Legislature is the first one passed in Illinois since 2015. Rauner, a Republican, had been firmly opposed to the deal and particularly critical of the income tax hike it included. He vetoed the package of bills on Tuesday.

But enough Republican legislators supported the deal that Democrats were confident they could pass an override. The vote was 71-42.

Illinois has gone without a budget since 2015, when Rauner took office. His first budget proposed cutting funding for the state’s social services by nearly $4 billion. Rauner has additionally been a fierce opponent of public sector unions and tax increases and demanded that a budget deal include, among other things, a freeze on property taxes and cuts to public pensions.

About a dozen of the hundreds of protesters were arrested while demonstrating at the state capitol last week. “People are angry because they’re hurting,” Kristi Sanford of the activist group the People’s Lobby told NBC 5 Chicago. “So we have people who’ve marched 15 days and 200 miles from Chicago to Springfield because they’ve lost loved ones without health care, or they can’t get the mental health care they need, or their schools are underfunded or their [Monetary Award Program] grants have been taken away.”

The budget passed will raise personal income taxes and corporate taxes to add $5 billion to the state’s coffers. The new budget won’t bring an end to the state’s financial woes. The credit rating agency Moody’s has warned that the state still faces, among other problems, $251 billion in unfunded pension liabilities.

The stalemate with the state’s Democratic-controlled Legislature has put the state nearly $15 billion behind on its bills and at risk of a credit downgrade to junk status. Social services and public education have been hit hard. Sixty-nine percent of social service agencies responding to a recent United Way survey have received partial or no payments for fiscal year 2017, including agencies for the homeless, child care, and mental health treatment. More than 1,500 employees have been laid off at the state’s community colleges and public universities.

One of the social service organizations that urged an override of Rauner’s veto this week was an early-childhood education group called Ounce of Prevention Fund. Its president is Rauner’s wife, Diana. From CNN Money:

Diana Rauner did not sign the statement released by the Ounce of Prevention Fund. However, Megan Meyer, a spokeswoman for the Ounce of Prevention Fund, confirmed to CNNMoney that Rauner remains the president of the foundation, which describes itself as a “public-private partnership that prepares children for success in school and in life.”

Asked why Diana Rauner wants lawmakers to oppose her husband’s veto, Meyer explained that the Illinois budget impasse has put the state’s social services infrastructure “under tremendous pressure” and forced many organizations to close or reduce services.