Governor Bruce Rauner predicts Democrats will now move to force a total shutdown of Illinois state government, and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan confirms that it's under consideration.
She may, indeed, ask the Illinois Supreme Court to stop state employee paychecks.
Illinois is in the 10th month with no state budget and still the vast bureaucracy rolls on, spending billions of dollars more than it's taking in. Pain so far has been isolated, but the governor says it's about to spread.
“The attorney general's gonna try to cut off the pay to state workers to try to force a crisis, force a shutdown of government to try to force a tax hike,” Rauner said.
State workers are still being paid because a lower court judge Downstate ordered it last year. But the Illinois Supreme Court recently ruled that, without a budget appropriation, the state should not pay even those who have an ironclad contract. The attorney general appears to agree.
“Just the same way it happens at the federal level, when there's no budget you face a shutdown. That's what happens - or should happen - in every single state. That has not happened here,” Madigan said. “But for far too many people not having access to the services they need, not having a budget has been a complete disaster.”
Funding has been cut off to state universities, such as Chicago State, and to social service agencies who care for the poor and disabled. The governor's offered a temporary, partial fix for some of that. But Democrats are holding out for a broader budget solution, which Rauner sees as political doubletalk.
“When they say that, what they mean is, "Governor, support a tax hike!" Rauner said.
Rauner says no tax hike unless Democrats agree to reforms to reduce the cost of government. What is key for both sides, though, is avoiding blame for the mess a real shutdown may bring.
Rauner and legislative leaders met Tuesday for the first time this year, and apparently it didn't go well. There was no deal.