Illinois Lawmakers to Return for Special Session to Address Budget Impasse -- Update

By Joe Barrett Features Dow Jones Newswires

Illinois lawmakers will return for a special session next week to address a historic budget impasse, but the two sides still seem far apart.

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Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner ordered the special session starting Monday, as the backlog of unpaid bills reaches $15.1 billion.

On July 1, the state will begin a third fiscal year without a budget, the longest stretch of any U.S. state.

"We commend the governor for calling a special session," said Laurence Msall, president of the Chicago-based Civic Federation, a business-backed budget watchdog. "But the legislature and governor should have been in session continually since May 30, when they didn't have a budget. We only have two weeks left in the fiscal year and the rating agencies have already warned the state that without a budget by July 1, there will be further downgrades which the state can't afford."

This week, the state Transportation Department has said it would stop roadwork by July 1 without a budget and the state lottery said it may be forced to withdraw from some popular multistate games.

State workers have continued to receive pay because of court orders, but school districts, colleges and medical and social service providers are under increasing strain.

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"Everyone needs to get together and get to work," Gov. Rauner said in a videotaped message Thursday.

He backed a Republican proposal that includes items like term limits and other issues that are likely to gain favor with Democrats, who control both chambers of the legislature.

"House Democrats will continue our work on the budget from Springfield, but as Governor Rauner has met each of our attempts to date with refusal, it is clear that the onus is on the governor to show that he is finally serious about working in good faith to end the crisis he has manufactured," House Speaker Michael Madigan said in a statement.

In recent weeks, bond credit-rating firms have cut the state's credit ratings to near junk status, the lowest rating ever for a U.S. state.

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(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 16, 2017 14:14 ET (18:14 GMT)