11 states in throes of budget snarls
N.J. governor uses closed beach; no deal in Illinois a third year
TRENTON, N.J. — In New Jersey, a beach was empty Sunday except for the governor and his family. In Illinois, the House worked into the night trying to resolve a $6.2 billion budget deficit.
But those two states are far from alone in struggling to reach a spending plan.
As the budget year started most places Saturday, 11 states did not have budgets in place, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers.
Many of the disputes are driven by ideological divides made worse by poor budget forecasting. Half of the states received less tax revenue than expected last fiscal year — the worst job of estimating since the tail end of the 2008 economic downturn, according to the budget officers association.
In some states like Wisconsin, the disagreement is whether to borrow money or raise taxes.
The states without a budget on July 1 are Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin, while in Michigan and Pennsylvania the budget has passed the Legislature and is on the governor’s desk.
In New Jersey, Republican Gov. Chris Christie ordered the shutdown of nonessential state services like state parks and the motor vehicles commission late Friday to put pressure on Democratic lawmakers to overhaul New Jersey’s biggest health insurer. Christie’s administration placed the photo of Democratic Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, on whom it’s blaming the shutdown, on signs announcing the parks are closed.
But the governor was photographed Sunday by NJ.com sitting with his family on a beach chair in sandals and a T-shirt at the state residence at Island Beach State Park, one of the parks closed to the public. He later flew back to Trenton on a state helicopter in an unsuccessful attempt to end the shutdown.
Christie on Sunday defended his family’s use of the state property during the shutdown, saying: “That’s the way it goes. Run for governor and you can have the residence.”
Illinois has the granddaddy of U.S. spending disputes. Saturday marked the start of a third year without a budget, and that has it in the most dire straits of any state.
The Illinois House on Sunday approved a $5 billion income tax increase as well as a spending plan for the new fiscal year. Fifteen Republicans joined majority Democrats in the 72-45 vote for the tax increases, providing one more than the three-fifths majority necessary for the law to take effect immediately. The revenue package now goes to the Senate for approval.
But Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner immediately issued a statement saying he would veto the tax increase if it is not accompanied by pro-business measures.
“Illinois families don’t deserve to have more of the hard-earned money taken from them when the Legislature has done little to restore confidence in government or grow jobs,” Rauner said.
Democrats countered that the $36 billion budget also approved by the House on Sunday is $800 million less than what Rauner proposed last winter.
Without a budget, credit rating agencies have threatened to downgrade Illinois to “junk” status.
In Maine, lawmakers worked over the weekend, but as of late Sunday the state was headed toward its first government shutdown since 1991.
Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature worked together on the two-year, $7.1 billion budget, but Republican Gov. Paul LePage said he couldn’t accept it because it did not include his income tax cuts.
LePage made his own suggestions, and his staff members appeared to praise the work being done over the weekend with hopes that a final vote on a deal could be held today.
Wisconsin’s budget deal fell apart over a debate on how to pay to fix crumbling roads.
Dwindling collections from the state’s gas tax and vehicle registration fees have left a $1 billion hole in the twoyear, $76 billion spending plan Wisconsin was supposed to have in place Friday.
Republican Gov. Scott Walker wants to borrow $500 million and delay some projects to save money. Some Republicans want to borrow even more.
Oregon — the only western state without a budget — appears to be on its way to passing a spending plan after additional revenue helped Democrats and Republicans reach a deal.
However, $670 million in taxes for health care remain in dispute. State Rep. Julie Parrish, a Republican representing a district just south of Portland, said she will push to get 58,000 signatures in 90 days to take advantage of Oregon’s law that allows voters to delay implementation of a law through a special election.