Judges' spending orders setting up Illinois for big deficit, comptroller says
Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger's message was clear: Court rulings that are paying out most of the state's money even though there's no budget are setting Illinois up for a growing deficit.
Munger, a Lincolnshire Republican and Illinois' check-writer-in-chief, told the Daily Herald editorial board more lawsuits could lead to more court-ordered payments before Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic lawmakers cut a budget deal.
"These courts are weighing in saying you must pay at last year's rates, but we do not have last year's revenues," Munger said.
The state is paying out to many of the agencies that care for people with disabilities and other programs under about a dozen federal decrees, Munger's staff reported. Others like colleges aren't getting paid, and some suburban mayors have made it clear they're unhappy they aren't getting their share of gasoline and video gambling taxes while Rauner and lawmakers wrestle over a budget that was due July 1.
Lottery winners sued this week to get their winnings because the state isn't paying out big prizes during the budget impasse. Should courts be asked to step in on behalf of other groups?
"I would say not," Munger said. "We need a budget."
Lawmakers and Munger decry how budgeting via court order takes spending decisions out of the hands of the governor and lawmakers elected to make those decisions. Does she foresee this happening more often, now that courts have made it clear they'll step in if other officials don't?
"Gosh, I sure hope this is not how we budget in the future," Munger said. "This is really an unproductive way to do things."
Munger faced criticism from state Sen. Daniel Biss, an Evanston Democrat and chairman of a committee scrutinizing human services payments.
Biss, who is planning to run for comptroller next year, asked Munger to testify at a hearing about how the payments are going out. He said there should be "absolutely clarity" about whether bills are being paid on a first-come, first-served basis or if some people are getting ahead in the line.
"It would have been helpful if she would have been there to talk about it," Biss said.
Munger told the editorial board her office sends the checks first-come, first-served but make occasional "exceptions for extreme hardship."
"I sent a letter saying it's because we don't have a budget," Munger said about why she didn't go to the hearing. "I can't make it because I'm meeting with social service organizations trying to figure out how we're going to get them paid and keep their doors open."
The lights briefly went out in the meeting room where Biss was leading the hearing Wednesday about the effects of the state not having a budget.
It appeared someone in the back had brushed up against the switch, and the lights quickly came back on.
Probably an accident, but point taken.
In his bid to return to Congress, Democrat Brad Schneider is seeking to highlight a Washington Post story that said some Republicans in top-tier national races, including U.S. Rep. Bob Dold, signed a form from the National Republican Campaign Committee.
The contract asks for a candidate who would be a member of the group's fundraising Patriot Program to state what his or her legislative agenda will be. Schneider argues Dold should say publicly what he assured the committee his priorities are.
"These backroom deals Bob Dold has signed raises issues of transparency, hypocrisy, and of ethics, and Bob Dold needs to explain these secretive agreements to voters," Schneider said in a statement.
Dold's response, via spokesman James Slepian: "Regarding of his legislative agenda, Bob Dold's record as one of the most bipartisan members of Congress reflects that his commitment is to serving as an effective, independent voice for the 10th District who puts people ahead of partisan politics."
The north suburban 10th Congressional District once again is shaping up as one of the most contested in the country. Dold, of Kenilworth is running for re-election. Schneider, of Deerfield, is looking for a return trip to Congress, and Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering has entered the Democratic primary, too.
Praise from politicians for Fox Lake Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz continued to come in this week.
On the U.S. Senate floor, Sen. Dick Durbin said: "When we reflect on the great contribution that Lt. Gliniewicz made to his community, to his county, to my state of Illinois and to our nation, it is with a heart full of gratitude that we say to his family: we're by your side."
Sen. Mark Kirk entered a statement into the Congressional Record, including: "On behalf of the people of Illinois, I thank Lt. Gliniewicz for his dedication and service to his community and his country. I encourage all law enforcement personnel to honor his memory by continuing his mission to foster positive relationships between police officers and the people they serve and to inspire the next generation of law enforcement."
And the Illinois Senate observed a moment of silence Wednesday for Gliniewicz led by state Sen. Pamela Althoff of McHenry.