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Illinois lawmakers override Rauner's budget veto, but state's finances still broken

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner
File photo | WUIS Radio
Both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly have overridden Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto, giving the state a budget for the first time since 2015.

Illinois broke its long-running budget stalemate Thursday when the House followed in the Senate's footsteps by voting 74-37 to override Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto. Both Democrats and Republicans backed the measure.

Without a budget for two years, Illinois racked up billions in unpaid bills and had to significantly cut funding to social services and education. The $36 billion spending plan for the 2017-2018 fiscal year, retroactive to Saturday, is paired with a $5 billion increase in income taxes. 

The vote was delayed and the Capitol put on lockdown while emergency workers investigated a report of hazardous material, which turned out not to be dangerous. A spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office said one person was in custody.

"The people in this chamber did not do what was easy today, but we did what was right for the future of our state," House Speaker Mike Madigan said after the vote. 

State Treasurer Michael Frerichs said that the veto override was "the only option to restore vital funding to universities, social service agencies, and try to avoid another credit downgrade."

“This is not a time to rejoice. Today only brings us a bit of relief, but it is a step in the right direction to put Illinois back on track,” he added in a news release, saying the budget stalemate was "self-inflicted."

Rauner had vetoed the spending bill on the Fourth of July,  saying the Democratic-controlled legislature didn't send him the "structural" changes he demanded, but the Senate quickly followed with its veto override. The House waited until Thursday to vote.

Ahead of the vote, Crain's Chicago Business reported Thursday that Aetna Better Health, which Illinois owes at least $698 million, gave notice that it plans to terminate its Medicaid contracts with the state. 

"We have filed notices of intent to terminate our contracts but hope those terminations will ultimately be unnecessary upon resolution of the current Medicaid funding crisis," Aetna spokesman T.J. Crawford wrote today in an email. "In other words, no final decision has been made."

Rauner vetoed the measures because he sees no indication that the Democratic-controlled Legislature will send him the "structural" changes he has demanded.