Budget mayhem: 7 states still without budgets a week into new fiscal year

By Robin Respaut and Karen Pierog Government Spending Reuters

Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, right, listens to the brief debate on a package of budget bills passed by the Senate on Tuesday, July 4, 2017, at the Capitol in Springfield, Ill. The Illinois Senate has OK'd an annual spending plan ... of $36 billion following a critical vote to raise the income tax rate. If approved by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, it would be Illinois' first budget in more than two years. (Rich Saal/The State Journal-Register via AP)

Seven U.S. states are still without budgets, nearly a week into the new fiscal year that started July 1.

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Legislatures in Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Rhode Island and Wisconsin remain in disagreement about how to close ongoing budget gaps in their states or fund new budget initiatives.

"We always have some states that go into the new fiscal year without budgets, but the number is a bit high this year," said Eric Kim, a director at Fitch Ratings.

Weak revenues complicated budget negotiations in several states, while idiosyncratic issues pushed others beyond their June 30 deadlines.

The Illinois House was poised to take final budget action on Thursday by attempting to override the governor's vetoes of a $36 billion spending plan and $5 billion tax hike approved by the Democratic-controlled legislature over the Fourth of July holiday weekend. A hazardous materials situation in the state Capitol in Springfield delayed the House session, but officials determined the substance was harmless and lawmakers were returning.

If enacted, the budget would mark Illinois' first complete budget since 2015. No other U.S. state has lacked a budget for that long.

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Thirty-three of the 50 U.S. states reported revenues that came in below projections in fiscal year 2017, the highest number of states since the recession decimated budgets in 2010, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers.

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Connecticut and Pennsylvania have the most challenging revenue situations, according to Fitch, as lower-than-anticipated tax collections exacerbated budget gaps and led to disputes over how to close them.

Massachusetts, also amid a revenue shortfall, enacted a one-month interim budget for July to provide additional time to negotiate a full-year budget. Wisconsin legislators are working to close a transportation funding shortfall.

Oregon's budget process includes multiple bills, most of which have been approved. But the legislature is still debating several measures, including changes to hiring practices.

Rhode Island had appeared ready to finalize a budget by June 30, but late last week the state Senate amended a House proposal to phase out an automobile tax, causing the House to halt the budget process.

Many states retain the authority to make debt service payments without enacted budgets.

Over the holiday weekend, several states came to last-minute budget agreements.

New Jersey and Maine ended partial government shutdowns just in time for the Fourth of July holiday on Tuesday, while governors of Washington state and Alaska signed new operating budgets late last week, hours before deadlines that would have triggered partial government shutdowns.

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