Illinois State Official: "We Are In Massive Crisis Mode, This Is Not A False Alarm"
Last week we reported that as Illinois, a state which now faces over $15 billion in backlogged bills, struggles over the next two weeks to somehow come up with its first budget in three years ahead of a June 30 fiscal year end, and faces an imminent ratings downgrade to junk - the first ever in US state history - traders finally puked, sending the yield on its bonds surging after a judge ruled at the start of the month that the state is violating consent decrees and previous orders, and instructed the state to achieve "substantial compliance with consent decrees", further pressuring its financial situation.
In a last ditch attempt to resolve the ongoing budget impasse and prevent a potential crisis, which may culminate with an eventual default by the distressed state, yesterday the WSJ reported that Illinois Gov. Rauner ordered lawmakers to return for a special session this week, but the two sides still seem far apart. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner ordered the special session starting Monday, as the backlog of unpaid bills reaches $15.1 billion.
“Everyone needs to get serious and get to work,” he said in a video announcing the session that his office posted on Facebook.
As reported previously, the state Transportation Department said it would stop roadwork by July 1 if Illinois entered its third consecutive fiscal year without a budget - the longest such stretch of any US state - while the Powerball lottery said it may be forced to dump Illinois over its lack of budget. For now, state workers have continued to receive pay because of court orders, but school districts, colleges and medical and social service providers are under increasing strain.
And yet, despite the sharp selloff in Illinois GO bonds which some had expected could force the two sides to reach a bargin, neither the Democrat-led legislature, nor Republicans governor Bruce Rauner appear closer to a consensus. Which probably explains today's Associated Press "shock piece" exposing just how serious the situation could become in under two weeks absent a resolution. It focuses on state Comptroller Susana Mendoza - who has had the unenviable job of essentially sitting at the kitchen table trying to figure out how to pay the bills - who is warning that the previously discussed new court orders in lawsuits filed by state suppliers that are owed money mean her office is required to pay out more than Illinois receives in revenue each month. That means there would be no money left for so-called “discretionary” spending - a category that in Illinois includes school buses, domestic violence shelters and some ambulance services.
“I don’t know what part of ‘We are in massive crisis mode’ the General Assembly and the governor don’t understand. This is not a false alarm,” said Mendoza, a Chicago Democrat.
“The magic tricks run out after a while, and that’s where we’re at.”
As AP sums it up, "it's a new low, even for a state that’s seen its financial situation grow increasingly desperate", a state which has a website dedicated to tracking the daily amount in overdue bills...