SPRINGFIELD — Although state lawmakers approved a spending plan nearly a month ago, Illinois still doesn’t have a budget in place for the fiscal year beginning Monday.
The delay is not because Gov. Pat Quinn hasn’t taken action on the $33.7 billion financial blueprint.
Rather, in what one Senate insider described as a game of political hot potato, Quinn can’t take action on the budget because the Senate simply hasn’t sent the governor the legislation that makes up the spending plan.
Under the Illinois Constitution, the General Assembly has 30 days to send the governor a bill. The governor then has 60 days to take action on it.
Senate Democrats, who control the flow of legislation in the General Assembly’s upper chamber, may be holding the seven budget bills until the last minute to try to force the governor to simply sign the bills, rather than veto or amend them. One other explanation: Quinn has asked for the delay so he has a ready-made excuse for signing a spending plan that he doesn’t entirely support.
Ronald Holmes, a spokesman for Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, isn’t discussing the strategy behind the delaying tactics. Holmes wouldn’t even acknowledge the legislation hadn’t been transmitted to Quinn’s office as of Wednesday afternoon.
“We’re not holding the bills,” Holmes said in an email.
A spokeswoman for the governor’s budget office says the governor will be ready to take action as soon as the legislation crosses his threshold.
“Even though we haven’t received the bills, we continue to thoroughly review the budget and will take action shortly after receipt,” said Kelly Kraft. “We plan to sign the budget on or before July 1.”
Senate Republicans, who opposed most aspects of the proposed budget, say they’ve been left out of the Democratic maneuvering.
“This is something between the governor and the Democratic leaders,” said Patty Schuh, spokeswoman for Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont. “The Democrat leaders and the Democrat governor may have cooked up a plan.”