A look at Illinois’ budget mess as lawmakers head to Capitol

CHICAGO (AP) — Already holding the title for longest state budget stalemate, Illinois is poised to enter a third year without a spending plan as the feud between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democrats controlling the Legislature drags on.

Lawmakers blew past a budget deadline last month, triggering a requirement that any new budget vote be by three-fifths instead of a majority.

They’re expected to return to Springfield for a special session starting Wednesday facing higher stakes to get a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Unpaid bills are piling up. Rating agencies are threatening to downgrade the state’s credit to “junk.” Uncertainty about schools, transportation projects and social services grows. And campaigning for the 2018 election is well under way in what some predict could become the most expensive governor’s race in U.S. history.

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Here’s a look at the situation:

THE WORST STATE?

No other state even comes close to Illinois’ budget stalemate, which was unprecedented once it reached a full year.

In that time, the backlog of unpaid state bills has swelled to roughly $15 billion. Generally, bills 60 days late are considered unpaid and face late payment penalty. That tab is $800 million, according to Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza’s office.

Illinois’ already worst-in-the-nation credit rating has already sunk even further, with ratings agencies threatening a downgrade to “junk” status without a budget. Lottery officials say Powerball and Mega Millions are ready to drop games in Illinois too.

Some U.S. states have gone months without an agreement. Pennsylvania had a nearly nine-month budget impasse that ended last year. It took Kentucky nine months in 2003.

Still, Illinois holds the record.

The stalemate started in 2015 when Rauner — Illinois’ first GOP governor in over a decade — took office. The venture…

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