Three states begin July in paralysis after governors fail to get budgets

Governors in Illinois, Maine, and New Jersey have been unable to reach budget agreements.

Gov. Paul LePage (R-ME) is one of three GOP governors with no budgets in place as of July 1. CREDIT: AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty
Gov. Paul LePage (R-ME) is one of three GOP governors with no budgets in place as of July 1. CREDIT: AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

Claiming he is “out of ink,” Maine’s erratic Republican governor said he would not sign a bipartisan budget deal that he been agreed to by negotiators from the GOP-controlled state senate and the Democratic-controlled state house. Though he tweeted that there was “no need to shut down” the state government, Gov. Paul LePage scuttled the deal vowing that “there will not be a signature on anything that increases taxes.” With no budget, much of the Maine state government shut down on Saturday.

LePage is not the only Republican governor in a Democratic-leaning state who was unable to get a budget agreement before the July 1 fiscal new year. In New Jersey, deeply unpopular Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) ordered his state government shut down all but essential services on Saturday. In his final months as governor, Christie and leaders in the Democratic-controlled legislature failed to reach a budget agreement amid a disagreement over provisions relating to the state’s largest health insurer. Christie had promised to slash key priorities with his line-item veto if he doesn’t get his way.

In Illinois, Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) has been unable to get a budget deal for two years. While Illinois state law allowed the government to remain open even without a budget, he failed to reach an agreement with his Democratic legislature. As a result, the state’s lottery has been forced to suspend ticket sales (as there is insufficient money to pay out prizes), the state’s bond rating could soon be downgraded to junk status, and funding for the education system is imperiled. Rauner has long demanded the state legislature enact Wisconsin-style anti-union measures.

The prospects for immediate deals in these states remain dubious. Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon (D) claimed she left a discussion at the governor’s residence following his “aggressive behavior” toward her. While the governor’s office did not respond to a Boston Globe inquiry about her claims, last year LePage left an obscenity-filled voicemail message on the voicemail of a Democratic state legislator, calling him a “cocksucker” and warning he would go “after” him.