Public ser­vices in Ill­nois suf­fer dur­ing state’s 3-year bud­get im­passe

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY SOPHIA TA­REEN

SPRING­FIELD, ILL. | More than 1 mil­lion Illi­nois res­i­dents are feel­ing the im­pact of the state’s un­prece­dented bud­get im­passe, a sit­u­a­tion that’s ex­pected to worsen with the prospect of en­ter­ing a third straight fis­cal year with­out a spend­ing plan.

State leg­is­la­tors ad­journed this week with­out an agree­ment for the fis­cal year that starts July 1, af­fect­ing stu­dents, small busi­nesses, do­mes­tic vi­o­lence vic­tims and oth­ers.

Here’s a look at some of fall­out of the on­go­ing bud­get fight be­tween Repub­li­can Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democrats con­trol­ling the Leg­is­la­ture:

Fi­nan­cial snap­shot

Illi­nois closes out the cur­rent fis­cal year nearly $6 bil­lion in the red, a deficit that con­tin­ues to grow. Spend­ing man­dated by court or­ders and state statute con­tin­ues at lev­els set by the last bud­get law­mak­ers ap­proved in 2014, when rev­enues were higher. A 2011 tem­po­rary in­come tax in­crease has since rolled back.

Adding to the mess is a bal­loon­ing back­log of un­paid bills to state con­trac­tors and ven­dors that has reached $14.5 bil­lion, a worst-in-the-na­tion credit rat­ing and roughly $130 bil­lion in un­funded pen­sion li­a­bil­i­ties.

Ed­u­ca­tion

Uni­ver­si­ties and col­leges say the stand­off threat­ens en­roll­ment with nu­mer­ous cut­backs and credit down­grades. This week, North­east­ern Illi­nois Univer­sity, which al­ready has in­sti­tuted tem­po­rary shut­downs and fur­loughed em­ploy­ees, an­nounced it would elim­i­nate 180 full­time jobs.

State-funded grants that help some 130,000 low-in­come stu­dents pay tu­ition are also in limbo. A stop­gap bud­get cov­ered some grants un­til Jan­uary. Some schools have been able to front the money in hopes that they’ll be re­im­bursed, but oth­ers can’t.

El­e­men­tary and high schools also have made re­duc­tions, of­fer­ing fewer spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion ser­vices and can­cel­ing some buses.

Chicago Public Schools an­nounced in early May that it will have to bor­row $389 mil­lion to get through the rest of the year. The na­tion’s sec­ond-largest dis­trict had banked on $215 mil­lion in pen­sion re­lief from Spring­field, which Mr. Rauner ve­toed late last year. So­cial ser­vices

Or­ga­ni­za­tions that pro­vide state so­cial ser­vices are wait­ing six months or more to get paid. Many have dras­ti­cally scaled back pro­grams or let em­ploy­ees go.

In the stop­gap bud­get, fund­ing for do­mes­tic vi­o­lence shel­ters was left out com­pletely and weren’t even told un­til De­cem­ber, forc­ing sev­eral to cut staff and cre­ate wait­ing lists.

The Women’s Cen­ter, a shel­ter of­fer­ing ser­vices to do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and sex­ual as­sault vic­tims in eight south­ern Illi­nois coun­ties, has said that with­out an in­fu­sion of state funds in the com­ing months they will have to close their doors.

Dozens of other or­ga­ni­za­tions have stepped up their le­gal bat­tle to force the state to honor con­tracts dur­ing the stale­mate. In early May, at­tor­neys for the Pay Now Illi­nois coali­tion pre­sented ar­gu­ments be­fore the Illi­nois Ap­pel­late Court, say­ing there has been a “break­down of con­sti­tu­tional gov­ern­ment.”

Small busi­ness

Cen­ters aimed at help­ing small busi­nesses thrive in Illi­nois also have had a dif­fi­cult time, with sev­eral clo­sures.

Illi­nois Small Busi­ness Devel­op­ment Cen­ters give free one-on-one busi­ness ad­vice and help small com­pa­nies with fi­nanc­ing, mar­ket­ing plans and spe­cial­ized tech­nol­ogy ser­vices, among other things. They’re of­ten set up at state uni­ver­si­ties and pro­po­nents credit them with help­ing cre­ate jobs.

The Illi­nois comptroller’s of­fice said that as of last month, roughly half of such cen­ters had closed in the state. Some have since re­opened with out­side help.

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