Illinois' fiscal situation dire as state misses another deadline, special session begins
Illinois will not meet a court-set deadline Tuesday to increase spending on backlogs of Medicaid payments, pushing the problem off until the end of the month as the state’s unprecedented budget impasse is on the verge of entering its third straight fiscal year.
Medicaid talks will continue past Tuesday, with a new deadline set for June 28 — just two days before the final deadline for the state legislature to agree on a spending bill during a special session, an attorney said late Monday. The new fiscal year begins July 1.
Illinois owes Medicaid providers $2 billion for care provided to more than 3 million people — a small sum compared to the state's total unpaid bill of $15 billion, or 40 percent of Illinois' operating budget. After failing to pass a spending bill for two straight fiscal years, the state has been functioning on appropriations since 2015.
Failure to strike a budget agreement by the end of the state legislature’s annual session on May 31 resulted in a critical credit downgrade for the country’s fifth largest state to Baa3, the lowest of any state and only one level above non-investment grade — also known as junk. Illinois has received 8 downgrades in as many years and most states are rated at least 8 levels higher, according to Moody’s.
The state’s backlog of unpaid bills will skyrocket to $28 billion by June 2019 without a deal, Moody’s predicted, which would rack up even more interest and penalties than what is already owed. Even if a deal is reached, state debt and taxpayer dues will both likely increase.
Additionally, the state currently has more than $250 billion in unfunded pension obligations, annual payments of which could be cut if a deal isn’t struck — a scenario that Moody’s warned would be a negative credit event for bondholders.
The state legislature’s special session begins Wednesday and will take place over 10 days. The impasse between the Democratic-controlled legislature and the Republican governor has paralyzed the state so severely that Gov. Rauner even compared Illinois to a “banana republic” earlier this month because it cannot manage its finances.