Illinois Finally Has a State Budget—What’s Next?

Illinois finally has a state budget—walking our state back from the brink of fiscal chaos.

After two years in which Bruce Rauner held the budget hostage to his own political agenda, our state was facing crises on every front. Road work and infrastructure projects were halted. Human services agencies were shutting their doors. State universities were losing students and faculty. Local governments lost needed state assistance. A $15 billion mountain of unpaid bills had accumulated. And the threat of becoming the first-ever “junk bond” state loomed.

But when legislators sent Rauner a budget and revenue plan that cut spending more than his own budget proposal and set the income tax at the rate he backed, he vetoed it anyway.

Rauner’s cronies at the Illinois Policy Institute (IPI), an organization that has frequently attacked public employees as overpaid and under-worked, led the charge against the new budget and revenue plan.

The budget raises the individual income tax 1.2 percentage points, from 3.75% to 4.95%. That’s actually less than Illinois residents paid three years ago, and less than the top rate of our neighboring states. But Rauner and the IPI extremists are trying to use it as a club to batter legislators who voted to end the governor’s budget blockade.

Call 888-912-5959 or email your legislator right now to help counter the attacks from Rauner and the IPI. Thank your legislator for voting to bring Illinois back from the brink of fiscal meltdown.

The bipartisan balanced budget that legislators passed has some good news for local government and school district employees:

  • No changes to collective bargaining. Despite two years of intensive pressure on legislators, including threatening members of his own party, Gov. Rauner was not able to push through any of his schemes to weaken the collective bargaining rights of public employees.
  • Funding for local school districts. Local school districts will not have to continue the heavy borrowing that was beginning to jeopardize their fiscal stability.
  • Funding for 9-1-1 systems. Legislators overrode Rauner’s veto of legislation to help local governments maintain effective 9-1-1 emergency systems.
  • Public health programs preserved. After struggling for two years to cope with a lack of state funds, funding for city and county public health programs is increased in this budget.
  • Shores up City of Chicago pension funds. Allows the City of Chicago to increase contributions to its struggling pension funds.
  • Stabilizes Local Government Distributive Fund. This important source of state revenues for local governments will now continue to flow again.

But there are also some red flags for local government employees in this budget plan:

  • The Local Government Distributive Fund allotment for local governments is reduced by 10% in FY 18.
  • The budget appropriates funds to pay down FY 17 debts, including money owed to local governments, but there are no revenues currently available to make those payments.
  • The state has added a new fee to help cover the cost of taxes it collects for local governments.

The big budget battle is effectively over, but the real battle is just beginning. That’s the battle over what kind of a state Illinois will be. Bruce Rauner is now running full-tilt for re-election. He’s hired the IPI president—a harsh critic of public employees and our union—as his chief of staff. And he’s dumped more than $50 million into his own campaign fund.

As he said since before he was elected, Rauner sees Wisconsin as his model: A state where public employees have been entirely stripped of their union rights, where employee health care costs have soared, wages are stagnant, and workplace protections are almost nil.

We have a different vision for Illinois: One in which working people have the freedom to form strong unions, helping to foster prosperity that’s shared by all; in which public employees are able to continue to provide the vital services that our communities rely on; and in which our tax system is truly reformed to ensure that the wealthy pay their share.

In the coming months, AFSCME will join with our allies to re-launch a major effort to bring true fiscal stability to Illinois by amending the state constitution to allow for a fair, graduated income tax in which the rich pay their share.