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© Krantz News Service, July 9, 2015


Well into the summer, Illinois is still without a budget. But in Washington State, lawmakers finally put the finishing touches on a contentious budget deal.

Illinois lawmakers failed even to pass a temporary one-month budget before they headed into their 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. Now the third branch of the state's government is involved. Judge Diane J. Larsen of the Circuit Court of Cook County ruled that the state cannot pay its workers without a budget.

The state may only pay minimum wage to those workers covered under federal law, the judge ruled. Rauner said the state would consider all of its legal options, including an expedited appeal. Unions representing state workers pledged to appeal.

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 appears to have a deal to end its longest-ever season of lawmaking in state history. The legislature is now in the midst of its third special session.

Lawmakers had announced a deal on a two-year operating budget late on the night of June 30 -- the last day of the fiscal year. But then a Democratic-led faction in the Republican-controlled Senate successfully defeated a bill deferring reduced class size to a future operating budget. That created a $2 billion hole in the budget.

Now that faction has agreed to support the deferral in return for legislative passage of a bill eliminating passage of a high school science assessment as a requirement for high school graduation. That will enable some 2,000 students to receive their diplomas.

The News Tribune of Tacoma, WA had termed the unexpected development a "monkey wrench from Olympia's Senate Democrats." But Democrats who voted against the deferral 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 earlier agreement and seems to have been blindsided as well.

Long-time observers in Olympia were surprised at the crisis. Governor Jay Inslee and legislative leaders had wrestled with budget numbers for months before coming to terms at the end of June. 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.


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