Illinois' budget woes come to a head as Rauner calls special session, lottery threatens to leave
Illinois legislators will come back to Springfield for a special session in order to work out a budget deal, Gov. Bruce Rauner said Thursday in an attempt to end an impasse that's approaching its third year and running up the state's deficit.
The Republican governor's announcement, done via a Facebook video and statement, came the same day that the multi-state lottery association overseeing Powerball and Mega Millions games will leave Illinois by the end of this month if there is no budget.
The special session will be held June 21 to June 30, said Rauner, who also accused majority Democrats of "ignoring" his recommendations. He says there are "tough" choices to make before the July 1 start of the fiscal year.
Illinois hasn't had a budget since 2015 when Rauner took office. He wants pro-business reforms with a budget, saying it will help dig Illinois out of a financial mess. Democrats say Rauner's ideas would hurt the middle class and are not related to the budget.
Illinois will close out the current fiscal year nearly $6 billion in the red. And there's a ballooning backlog of unpaid bills to state contractors and vendors that's reached $14.5 billion, a worst-in-the-nation credit rating and roughly $130 billion in unfunded pension liabilities.
House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said in a statement that Rauner refused to meet Democrats "half way" during the regular session, when they, among other things, "voted to cut property taxes" and "reform workers' compensation."
Madigan also said that "it's clear the onus is on the governor to show that he is finally serious about working in good faith to end the crisis he has manufactured."
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Illinois sold about $307 million of the lottery game tickets combined in 2016, though it's not clear how much money the state received from that. Illinois Lottery Acting Director Greg Smith said Thursday that the lack of a budget will result in players being "denied the opportunity" to participate in popular games.