By JEFFREY COLLINS
Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin may have taken the unusual step last week of publicizing their differences over the state budget by deriding each other’s positions as “laughable.”
But Wisconsin is far from the only state where officials have been unable to reach an agreement – or where the consequences of that inability have become conspicuous. In New Jersey, for instance, Cub Scouts have been kicked out of a campground.
With most states’ budget years starting on Saturday, 11 states still did not have budgets in place, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers.
Not all the budget fights have drawn as much attention as the one in New Jersey, which has led to a shutdown of state government. There is also the granddaddy of all spending disputes — the now more than two years Illinois has operated without a spending plan.
Many of the fights are being driven by ideological divisions that have been made worse by poor budget forecasting. Half of all states received less in taxes than expected last fiscal year – marking the worst job of estimating since the tail end of the Great Recession, according to the budget officers association.
In some states like Wisconsin, the disagreement is whether to borrow money or raise taxes.
Besides Wisconsin, the states that did not have a budget on July 1 were Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island. Lawmakers in Pennsylvania and Michigan, meanwhile, have passed budgets that now just need to be signed by the governor.
Here’s a look at the stumbling blocks in various states and the possible consequences:
The budget deal in Wisconsin fell apart over an issue dogging many states these days — how to pay for repairing and improving crumbling roads.
Dwindling collections from the state’s gas tax and vehicle registration fees have left a $1 billion hole in the two-year, $76 billion spending plan Wisconsin was supposed to have in place Friday.
Republican Gov. Scott Walker wants to borrow $500 million and delay some projects to save money. Some Republicans want to borrow even more and the GOP has discussed imposing a new heavy-truck fee to raise $250 million, but that appears to be dead along with any discussion of raising the gas tax.
Republican Gov. Christie ordered the shutdown of nonessential state services like state parks and the motor-vehicles commission late Friday as he put pressure on Democratic lawmakers to overhaul New Jersey’s biggest health insurer.
As a result, 25 Cub Scouts were forced to leave Cheesequake State Park. Christie’s administration is blaming Democratic Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto and has placed a picture of him on signs announcing the parks are closed.
New Jersey Democrats worry if they don’t give in to Christie’s demands in the nearly $35 billion budget, he will use his line-item veto to reduce education spending.
Saturday marked the start of a third year without a budget for Illinois. The lack of a spending plan has it in the most dire straits of any state in the United States.
The trouble started when Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner took over in 2015, the same year a temporary four-year tax increase ended. In his first budget year, Democrats ignored Rauner’s demands, and the state kept in place a spending plan that was adopted when the state was collecting an additional $7 billion a year in taxes.
Illinois is now running on an estimated $6 billion deficit. Comptroller Susana Mendoza is warning that without some kind of spending plan, state workers may stop getting paychecks, pension payments may be halted, money-generating lottery ticket sales could stop and the state’s credit rating could fall to “junk” by the summer.
In Maine, lawmakers worked over the weekend, but it appeared residents will start dealing Monday with the state’s first government shutdown since 1991.
Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature worked together on a two-year, $7.1 billion budget, but Republican Gov. Paul LePage said he couldn’t accept it because it did not include his income-tax reductions.
Unlike other states facing budget disputes, both lawmakers and the governor appear to be trying to end the game of chicken they’ve been playing. LePage made his own suggestions and staffers appeared to praise the work being done over the weekend with hopes that a final vote on a deal could be held Monday.
The only western state without a budget appears to be well on its way to passing a spending plan.
In Oregon, the trouble started when Gov. Kate Brown and her fellow Democrats called for changes in the way the state taxes businesses. But as June started with no deal over the state budget, Brown relented.
The raising of additional revenue helped Democrats and Republicans reach a deal.
But there could still be some spending disputes. At risk are $670 million in taxes for health care as a Republican Rep. Julie Parrish said she will push to get 58,000 signatures in 90 days to take advantage of Oregon’s law that allows voters to use a special election to delay the carrying out of a law.