- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 16, 2014

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois’ Republican governor-elect said Tuesday he’s learned state agencies are planning to ask him for at least $760 million more than they were originally given to spend in 2015, but declined to indicate how he’d address those requests once he’s sworn in - or when.

“They’re now saying, ‘We’re calling in the chip. We want the money now,’” Bruce Rauner told attendees at a Better Government Association luncheon in Springfield of conversations with agencies which he says are on pace to spend more than they were allotted.

At issue is the state’s $35.7 billion budget approved by lawmakers in the spring, which Rauner on Tuesday called “intentionally misleading,” as well as “disgusting” and “wrong.”

The plan didn’t provide enough money to cover agency expenses, as lawmakers originally planned to return to session after the November election to debate whether to fill a roughly $2 billion revenue gap by extending the state’s temporary income tax increase, set to roll back Jan. 1. But lawmakers in the Democratic-led Legislature abandoned those plans following Rauner’s victory, noting they were heeding the governor-elect’s request not to take up any “substantive” issues until his inauguration.

As Rauner has said his transition team is “finishing its homework” on the budget and wouldn’t be “discussing any recommendations” until the new year, state agencies, caught between the transition between governors, are grappling with the possibility of having to halt operations in the coming months.

Warnings of impending shutdowns at the Department of Corrections and Department of Human Services if additional funding isn’t approved came in reports issued this fall from the state of Illinois and the Civic Federation of Chicago, noting the current budget is short of providing funding to maintain existing programs and operations, including payrolls.

As agency spokesmen say they’re in the process of compiling information for Rauner’s team, those who monitor corrections and human services closely say that pain will be vividly felt without additional funding being approved.

The Department of Corrections’ anticipated $90 million shortfall in funding to operate existing programs come January would only add to existing overcrowding and staffing problems, said John Maki, director of the independent watchdog group the John Howard Association.

“We already have people in gyms and other places where they should not be housed, and understaffing throughout the system,” Maki said. “Without addressing the short-term problems we make the situation much worse.”

Human Services, which faces a $130 million shortfall in operational expenses and another $60 million missing in mental health grants, faces further complications in paying for escalating child care costs, among other areas, House Human Services Appropriations Chair Greg Harris said.

Lawmakers approved supplemental budgets of $975 million last year, and more than $2 billion in fiscal year 2013, according to Senate President John Cullerton’s office.

Gov. Pat Quinn’s assistant budget director, Abdon Pallasch, said Tuesday that the governor’s office has not made a supplemental budget request. He said the administration has “made clear that it’s important for the new administration to work with the legislature on the budget for this year and future years.”

Meanwhile, experts point out, the state’s financial situation worsens as more time goes on without any solution.

“Prior to (a new budget year) and prior to Rauner being inaugurated the state continues to deteriorate,” said Lawrence Msall, president of the nonpartisan Civic Federation. “It’s a sad situation and a dangerous one financially.”

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Follow Kerry Lester on Twitter at https://twitter.com/kerrylester


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