CHRONICLE: Budget deficit grew 52% in final year of Rauner budget impasse

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The state budget deficit grew to a record $14.6 billion – 52 percent – in fiscal year 2017, the final year of the state’s budget crisis, according to the Illinois State Auditor General.

During the more than two-year impasse, Rauner pushed the state to the brink, holding the budget hostage in order to pass non-budgetary reforms.

In July 2017, a bipartisan group of legislators overrode Governor Bruce Rauner’s veto of the budget compromise, pointing to the toll the crisis took on the state’s finances, social services providers, and educational institutions.

The deficit grew to $15 billion in unpaid bills. Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation, a Chicago-based government finance watchdog, called the audit “another smack in the head… I hope reports such as this are a frank reminder of the need to have a budget,” he said in an interview.

A spokesman for Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza, Jamey Dunn, said, “This report makes clear that Illinoisans continue to pay the price for the state’s disastrous budget impasse, in the form of late payment interest penalties and a state government that is weakened at almost every level by the inability to pay its bills on time.”

The office responsible for paying Illinois’ bills, the Comptroller’s office, said it doesn’t know how long it will take to pay back everything that the state owes.

Meanwhile, Illinois’ credit rating has fallen to the worst of any state in the nation. While the passage of the budget against Rauner’s wishes has protected the state from further downgrades in the near term, agencies still warn that Illinois is at risk.

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