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State Budget Battle: "Enough is Enough" for IL Senior Advocates

If a balanced budget isn't in place on July 1, Illinois could become the first state with a "junk" status rating for its general-obligation debt. (il.gov)
If a balanced budget isn't in place on July 1, Illinois could become the first state with a "junk" status rating for its general-obligation debt. (il.gov)
June 29, 2017

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- With $15 billion in unpaid bills, Illinois faces the prospect of being the first state to go three straight years without a balanced budget.

Advocacy groups on all sides are calling on state lawmakers to stop the bickering and break the gridlock that affects residents of all ages and walks of life. AARP Illinois has been gathering petitions and will deliver more than 10,000 signatures to members of the General Assembly and Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Gerardo Cardenas, communications director for the group, said their message is simple: Fix this mess.

"And urging them to, number one, come up with a plan that delivers a balanced state budget; and number two, to hold them accountable if they don’t,” Cardenas said.

The state is supposed to have a balanced budget in place by July 1. If it doesn't happen, S&P Global Ratings say Illinois will probably lose its investment grade status and become the first U.S. state on record to have its general obligation debt rated as "junk.”

The state currently owes $800 million in interest and late fees alone.

Cardenas said the lack of a budget affects the state's roads and traffic lights, because there's no money to repair them. He added that many college students can't get grants, and seniors who receive home-care services or programs like Meals on Wheels are going without.

"Community agencies and social service agencies that, because they haven't been paid in two years, they have to make tough choices, like cutting hours for the clients, laying people off - which of course, impacts unemployment across the state - or shutting down,” he said.

On Tuesday, Senate Democrats unveiled their plan to solve the state's budget woes, but have not come to an agreement with Republicans yet.

The online petition demanding action from lawmakers is available on the AARP website. More information is available here.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IL