Governor, Legislative Leaders Discuss Budget Mess Of Their Own Creation

Nov 16, 2016

Credit Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

The state's top political leaders got together in Springfield Wednesday for the second time in as many days. A prime topic of conversation in the closed-door meeting: a new report on just how dire Illinois' budget situation has gotten.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and the legislature's top leaders spent part of Wednesday morning talking about the budget mess they helped create.

The backlog of bills that the state owes but can't afford to pay now exceeds $10 billion.

According to a new report from the governor's budget office, that figure is on track to reach $47 billion within five years. While some of the budget difficulties can be blamed on choices made years ago, the state has been going down an unprecedented path for a year and a half.

A stopgap spending plan is in place through December, but Illinois remains without a real budget as a partisan stalemate drags on.

Democrats say Illinois needs to focus on identifying cuts and hiking taxes.

"That (revenue) has to be one of the factors, as well as cuts, and that's what we talked about as well," Senate President John Cullerton said.

Rauner says he'll go along with a tax increase if Democrats go along with his ideas, like term limits and weakening unions -- other subjects touched on during their latest gathering.

"We haven't had balanced budgets in Illinois going back probably 30 years that I can tell. Always deficits, always more borrowing. And now all of a sudden. 'Oh! We've got to balance the budget this year and we can't do anything that doesn't immediately balance the budget immediately.' Come on," Rauner said of Democrats' position. "Can we please be realistic about what's going on? We'll never have balanced budgets if our economy stays growing flat and our government spending keeps going on a rocket ship."

The leaders say they'll meet again, but did not set a date.