Budget deficit grows as first deadline looms

ILLINOIS – Lawmakers only have a few weeks left to finish a budget on time, but last week’s Illinois Supreme Court decision has only made their job harder.

The state’s highest court struck down a pension reform that could have saved $1 billion in the state’s 2016 budget. It also likely put Bruce Rauner’s proposed reforms saving up to $2.2 billion on hold for at least a year.

The Illinois Commission for Budget Forecasting and Accountability reports the state’s total deficit is $6.1 billion. Executive Director Dan Long says about $5 billion of the shortfall is due to the loss of the temporary income tax increase. He said it’s the largest revenue drop facing the state in its history. Long said the state will have trouble passing a budget without raising taxes.

"There's limits on how much you can cut in human services, particularly with the Medicaid program,” Long said. “And when you're dealing with mental health institutions, you're required to have certain staffing levels, so it's simply not that easy."

If the state misses its May 31 deadline, not a lot will happen to people in Illinois. However, if the state can't pass a budget before July 1, Illinois could begin seeing state services being put on hold until lawmakers can reach an agreement.

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