Illinois lawmakers begin new term without state budget

Illinois lawmakers begin new term without state budget

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (KFVS/AP) - The Illinois Senate is returning to Springfield on Wednesday for a new legislative term expected to be dominated by officials' inability to agree on a budget that should have taken effect July 1.

The stalemate puts lawmakers and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner in the odd predicament of trying to pass an overdue budget at a time when they traditionally would be ironing out a spending plan for next year.

The session that runs through May is expected to get off to a slow start. The House won't convene until Jan. 27, when Rauner will deliver his State of the State speech. And some lawmakers will be preoccupied with March primary races.

With no budget, the state has been operating with stop-gap measures and court-mandated spending that's plunging Illinois further into debt.

"There are limited services in the area, so with us being gone – that cuts back even more," Assistant Director for the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders, Sherell Sparks said."We have gone from serving 20 clients a semester to now only serving…maybe half that."

Sparks says the center serves 31 counties, but due to the budget impasse and not receiving any state funding the past several months,  the center is set to close this summer.

"We're running on reserve money that we get from donations from the community and that will run out in June, so we will close out in June," she said.

With the Senate heading back to Springfield Wednesday, Dr. John Jackson with the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, says it's imperative that an agreement is made soon on the state's budget.

""What we've got is a series of court decisions and jury-rigged solutions, but the state has failed in its most essential function, which is to put together a budget and to put together a revenue package needed to meet that budget requirement," Dr. Jackson said. "The Illinois Constitution demands the government delivers a balanced budget to the legislator. And that the legislator acts on it and delivers it back to the governor. Both parties have failed to do this."

Downsizing half of its staff and clients, Sparks says it's a sad situation.

"We've done a lot to help the community and the clients and we've seen some big improvement  with clients we have seen in the past. And without the center being here, parents won't have that autism specialists service that they've had in the past," she said.

Sparks says there is a possibility that the center could stay open if the budget is passed, but that's up to the department in charge of the center and new staff would have to be hired.

There is proposed legislation lawmakers will be considering for 2016. For more information on this, you can click here.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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