5 things to watch as Illinois nears possible shutdown

  • Gov. Bruce Rauner, center, reaches to shake the hand of House Speaker Michael Madigan as Senate President John Cullerton looks on. A budget stalemate among the three leaders could lead to a shutdown of state government next month.

    Gov. Bruce Rauner, center, reaches to shake the hand of House Speaker Michael Madigan as Senate President John Cullerton looks on. A budget stalemate among the three leaders could lead to a shutdown of state government next month. Associated Press File Photo

 
 
Updated 6/22/2015 10:15 AM

Gov. Bruce Rauner and lawmakers who meet at the Capitol Tuesday have about a week to head off a government shutdown that could come if Illinois loses the ability to pay its bills.

Starting July 1, the state won't have the legal authority to spend money on almost anything. Here's what you need to watch for.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Licenses to the law

Most state workers who help people get driver's licenses, regulate casinos and work in prisons -- among many other things -- don't have a payday until the middle of July. So that could buy the state a couple weeks to get the budget figured out before it can't make payroll.

Many of those workers are union members, and the state's biggest union contract runs out June 30, presenting a more immediate pressure point.

School time

Schools aren't supposed to get their first major payment of state money until Aug. 10, and some lawmakers think that date represents the most important deadline in the budget battle.

If schools don't get the money they're expecting to use to operate, they have a few options. Many in the suburbs have enough cash in the bank to get by for a while. Others can take out short-term loans.

Others still could choose not to open, creating significant pressure on Rauner and lawmakers to get money flowing again.

Caregivers

The state is already behind in paying organizations throughout the state and suburbs that take care of the elderly and disabled. But if one of those groups is close to extinction because of those delays, Illinois can step in and make an exception, speeding reimbursements up.

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That would end after July 1 if the state doesn't have a budget. Illinois wouldn't have the legal authority to send money to those groups in most cases, perhaps putting some caregivers in a serious bind because most don't have a lot of financial wiggle room in their own budgets.

The new governor

Rauner has been governor for just a few months, and this is his first budget battle. So it remains to be seen how he'd manage a budget stalemate when the agencies under his control can't spend money.

He has some options. Rauner could reduce spending in the budget Democratic lawmakers have sent him and put cuts into effect, avoiding a shutdown.

But even a temporary budget solution like that might take pressure off lawmakers to approve the more broad policy goals Rauner wants, such as a property tax freeze.

Taxes

Democrats sent Rauner a budget that calls for spending more than $3 billion more than the state is expected to take in next year. Many members of the party want to raise taxes to fill that hole, saying the state shouldn't cut off services to the people who need help the most.

Rauner hasn't completely abandoned that idea, but he wants his agenda approved first. Democrats so far have made a show of rejecting most of his proposals, leading to the stalemate that's likely to continue Tuesday.

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