What a state government shutdown would mean to you

  • Gov. Bruce Rauner, left, will have to come to a budget agreement with House Speaker Michael Madigan and other top Democrats if the state is to avoid a shutdown.

    Gov. Bruce Rauner, left, will have to come to a budget agreement with House Speaker Michael Madigan and other top Democrats if the state is to avoid a shutdown. Associated Press File Photo

Updated 6/29/2015 5:00 AM

Illinois government will keep the lights on Wednesday even if it can't immediately pay the electric bill.

State police will stay on the roads. State parks will stay open for the July 4 holiday. Gambling regulators will keep working, allowing casinos to stay open.


But suburban agencies that care for the disabled, for example, won't get paid by the state for work they do in July until Democratic lawmakers and Rauner end a budget feud that's been boiling since February.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner last week vetoed most of the budget sent to him by the Democrat-controlled legislature. When the new budget year starts on Wednesday, Illinois loses its ability to pay for anything.

In addition, the state's contract with its biggest employee union runs out Tuesday, but talks have been extended by a month. If Rauner's office and union leaders don't work things out soon, a strike or lockout is eventually possible.

Though few people will feel immediate effects, pressure will start to mount midmonth as the July 15 payroll approaches, vendors start sending bills that can't be paid and agencies that care for the poor and disabled start reducing services because they don't know when it will end.

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"The longer this plays out, the worse it's going to be," said Kim Zoeller, CEO of Lisle-based Ray Graham Association.

Many nonprofits that have contracts with the state keep little cash on hand, so the length of Illinois' budget fight will be critically important. Some can operate for a while without payment, knowing money will be coming eventually. Other, smaller organizations could start having trouble sooner.

Illinois has long had a large backlog of bills for such services and can keep paying the ones that have piled up since April, May, June or earlier, helping them with cash flow.

Rauner's administration will keep state workers on the job. In the suburbs, that means youth prisons in Warrenville and St. Charles will keep running for the duration. Expenses -- payroll, food for prisoners, medical bills -- will be paid for eventually once a budget deal is reached. But not before.

Elsewhere, "the state police will continue our mission," Master Sgt. Matt Boerwinkle said.

"I have heard nothing but business as usual," Illinois Gaming Board spokesman Gene O'Shea said.


Rauner already has signed Democrats' education spending plan, ending the threat of schools not opening their doors in August. Eliminating that point of pressure could open the door for a protracted state shutdown.

Even though the state won't have legal authority to pay most salaries beginning Wednesday, a court order could eventually force Comptroller Leslie Munger to cut the checks anyway, removing another pressure point that would encourage officials to cut a deal quickly.

Such stopgaps won't relieve local caretakers of uncertainty, though. Zoeller says her agency likely will cut respite services for 350 families of disabled people on Wednesday if there's no budget agreement.

She said her group and others like it just don't know if money for the program eventually will be available. Rauner's original budget plan wiped out money for respite, a program that helps care for disabled children while their parents take care of daily tasks.Democrats' budget put some of the money back, but it was vetoed.

Zoeller said Ray Graham can't spend money it might not ever recoup from the state. And until Rauner inks a budget that lawmakers have sent him, she won't know for sure how much money is coming.

"It's holding people with disabilities and their families hostage," she said.

The standoff arose after Democrats sent Rauner a budget that was more than $3 billion in the red and he vetoed most of it. Some top Democrats argue state taxes need to be raised to cover expenses after a drop in the state income tax rate from 5 percent to 3.75 percent for individuals earlier this year. Rauner wants lawmakers to approve parts of his pro-business agenda -- including a two-year property tax freeze -- before he'll talk about tax increases.

"Despite the fact (House Speaker Michael) Madigan and the politicians he controls have left the state of Illinois in flux by passing an unbalanced budget the governor was forced to veto, Gov. Rauner will manage state government as efficiently as possible while working toward reforming state government and passing a balanced budget," Rauner spokesman Lance Trover said.

Democrats have scheduled a hearing for Tuesday about the effects of a shutdown.

"Too often do the politicians proposing irresponsible cuts forget that there are real human faces behind the budgetary numbers and lives that will be forever changed by careless decisions," Democratic state Rep. Fred Crespo of Hoffman Estates said.

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