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Senate Democrats update budget numbers; stress need for negotiated agreement on finances

FY16 Budget Outlook ($ in millions)

SPRINGFIELD — Nearly 90 percent of state spending has now been committed because of recent court rulings and Rauner administration actions even though there is no state budget in place.

Illinois Senate Democrats estimate that 89.4 percent of all state general funding is covered by court orders, consent decrees, mandated state spending or other agreements and arrangements. In other words, almost 90 percent of what the state usually spends has already been committed even through there’s no state budget in place.

In recent weeks, a federal judge ordered the state to pay Medicaid providers who serve children in Cook County. Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration subsequently announced that it would expand those payments to Medicaid providers serving children throughout the state. Most recently, the administration further expanded that to cover all Medicaid providers and all services statewide in order to avoid additional legal action.

That means nearly $7.8 billion worth of Medicaid spending will occur at the Department of Healthcare and Family Services despite there being no state budget in place. Medicaid spending across all state agencies is approaching $9 billion in the absence of a budget. The Medicaid program and overall budget numbers reflect Senate Democrats’ best estimates based on tracking of past budgets and estimated spending for those programs in the current budget year.

Senator Daniel Biss, an Evanston Democrat, said it’s unfortunate that the state is essentially being run by court orders and the situation could have been avoided had the governor actively worked with lawmakers to negotiate a budget deal.

“What we’ve experienced the last few weeks points to the importance of the negotiated budget process. By outright rejecting the budget and offering no alternatives, the governor abdicated responsibility, and now the courts have stepped in to force a budget on the state. As a result, the governor must now manage a court-ordered budget that demands spending on programs he wanted to cut or eliminate. It raises concerns about how effectively his administration will adhere to these court orders and serve the public that relies on these programs and services,” Biss said.

The 10.6 percent that’s unaccounted for in state spending consists mostly of state support for higher education and various human service programs and grants. Colleges and universities traditionally receive almost $2 billion from the state budget. Human services program and grant spending annually tops $2 billion.

At the moment, the court orders and other agreements have put the state on a trajectory to spend an estimated $38 billion this fiscal year. The budget lawmakers approved that the governor vetoed, contained $36 billion in spending and investments. The state is expected to bring in $33 billion in revenue this budget year.