By Erica MacKellar
Over the years, states have developed a variety of mechanisms to avoid late state budgets.
The reasons are obvious—late state budgets can result in costly special sessions, or even a government shutdown. These mechanisms, however, can sometimes make it even harder for state lawmakers to reach budget agreements.
Illinois is currently the only state ever to go two years without passing a state budget, and the task this year just got harder.
Until June 1, Illinois only required a simple majority in each chamber to pass a budget. Since lawmakers failed to meet that June 1 deadline again this year, a three-fifths majority vote in each chamber is now required to pass the budget. The provision is intended to encourage lawmakers to pass the state budget well before the start of the new fiscal year on July 1, but in the state’s current situation, the law makes a daunting task even more challenging.
A number of other states also have measures to discourage the late passage of the budget. In California, lawmakers will not receive a paycheck if they do not send a budget to the governor by June 15. In Washington state, failure to pass the budget 30 days before the start of the new biennium is technically a misdemeanor, though the penalty has never been used.
Illinois will now call a June special session to debate the budget, and hope to reach the three-fifths majority vote required to pass the budget before the start of the new fiscal year. In the meantime, state government continues to operate under court ordered payments and some short-term funding measures.
Erica MacKellar is a policy associate in NCSL’s Fiscal Affairs Program.