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© Krantz News Service, July 2, 2015


A new fiscal year means new budget cycles. Yet budget battles continue, most prominently in Illinois, where there is no budget at all, and Washington State, where there is a budget albeit one with a $2 billion hole.

Illinois lawmakers failed even to pass a temporary one-month budget before they headed into a July 4 holiday break.

The Democratic-controlled Illinois legislature and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner have been unable to agree on how to eliminate a multi-billion dollar budget deficit, and now Rauner has tapped into a special state account to cover millions in state obligations.

"Illinois' attorney general asked a Cook County judge Thursday to clarify which bills the state may pay without authority during the budget impasse," The Associated Press reported.

After a futile Spring Session, Legislators had returned to Springfield for a "continuous session" beginning on June 9. "Democrats approved a plan that's over $3 billion short of anticipated revenue," AP stated at that time. "They want Rauner to OK a tax increase, but Rauner first wants other reforms."

The two sides could not come to an agreement.

Meanwhile, in Washington State the legislature finally reached a deal on a two-year operating budget late on June 30. But then a Democratic-led faction in the Republican-controlled Senate successfully defeated a bill deferring reduced class size to a future operating budget. Legislative leaders say that creates a $2 billion hole in budget.

The News Tribune of Tacoma, WA termed the development a "monkey wrench from Olympia's Senate Democrats." But Democrats who voted against the bill argued that they had not been consulted on the budget, in contrast to what they characterized as bipartisan negotiations when their party controlled the Senate.

The Democratic-controlled House had signed off on the agreement and seems to have been blindsided as well. The Senate is scheduled to resume debate on the budget this Friday.

Jason Mercier, Director of the Center for Government Reform at the Washington Policy Center, suggested that failure to balance the budget soon could force Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee to order across-the-board budget cuts under state law. Washington's last governor, Democrat Christine Gregoire, did so during a budget crisis in 2010.

Washington is now in its third special session this year, and long-time observers are surprised at the new crisis. Inslee and legislative leaders had wrestled with budget numbers for months before coming to terms. They had agreed to avoid new taxes because of growing revenues in an improved economy. And they had pushed through a significant transportation package in response to growing complaints about the state's infrastructure.

Now they are working to avert a complete disintegration of their accord.


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