11 states in throes of bud­get snarls

N.J. governor uses closed beach; no deal in Illi­nois a third year

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL - JEF­FREY COLLINS In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by John O’Con­nor, Michael Catal­ini, Bruce Ship­kowski and staff mem­bers of The As­so­ci­ated Press.

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.

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