Brian Mackey

Brian Mackey covers state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. He was previously A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.

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A court hearing scheduled Tuesday has the potential to shake up the precarious financial situation in Illinois. Organizations that run the state’s Medicaid program want a federal judge to speed up their payments.

The state already owes money to  a variety of organizations due to the budget impasse, but Medicaid providers want a federal judge to put them at the front of the line. Comptroller Susana Mendoza said Illinois already spends heavily on Medicaid, and letting those groups cut in line means Illinois would soon run out of money.

Flickr User Ken Teegardin/Flickr CC by SA 2.0

One day after the Illinois General Assembly ended its spring session without passing a budget, two bond-rating agencies have downgraded the state’s credit. The actions by S&P Global Ratings and Moody's Investors Service leave state government debt just one step above “junk” status.

S&P says Illinois is at risk of a negative credit spiral because of what it calls "unrelenting political brinkmanship." This means the agencies think there’s a real possibility state government could run out of cash and default on its debt.

The Illinois General Assembly ended its annual legislative session Wednesday night without agreeing on a budget.

Top Democrats and Republicans blamed each other, reflecting the main political divide in Springfield for more than two years. But this year's budget failure exposed an additional set of fault lines -- among Democrats.

The Senate spent much of the past five months in bipartisan negotiations — attempting to strike a "grand bargain" that both satisfied Gov. Bruce Rauner's economic agenda and adequately funded Illinois government.

State of Illinois

Today was the last day of the annual legislative session in the state capitol. It also happens to be the 700th day since Illinois last had a real budget.
Democrats – who hold a majority in both chambers of the General Assembly -- still aren’t saying whether they plan to do anything about that.
This is third year in which House Democrats have put themselves in this same position: going up to the end of session without a clear path on the budget.

House Democrats are trying to decide whether to raise income taxes and broaden the sales tax.  Their counterparts in the Senate voted for these changes last week. 

Late Monday afternoon, the House committee that deals with tax matters gave preliminary approval to the Senate plan. Chairman Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside, wasn't sure whether it would break the current budget impasse. 

“I wouldn’t go that far,” he said. “I think we’re closer to having a robust discussion about revenue options.”

That robust discussion, Zalewski added, is long overdue.

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