Nation

11 states lacking budgets amid ideological divides, revenue gaps

A sign hung from a barricade at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, N.J. The park is closed because of New Jersey’s government shutdown.
Julio Cortez/Associated Press
A sign hung from a barricade at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, N.J. The park is closed because of New Jersey’s government shutdown.

NEW YORK — As the budget year started in most parts of the country Saturday, 11 states did not have budgets in place, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers.

Not all the budget fights are as dramatic as Republican Governor Chris Christie’s in New Jersey, where there was a partial government shutdown, or as the one in Illinois, which for more than two years has operated without a spending plan.

Many of the disputes are driven by ideological divides made worse by poor budget forecasting. Half of the states received less in tax revenue than expected last fiscal year, according to the budget officers association.

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In some states, including Wisconsin, the disagreement is whether to borrow money or raise taxes.

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Massachusetts lawmakers left for the holiday weekend without completing budget work. Declining revenue could force them to cut as much as $1 million from the estimated $40 billion spending plan approved by the Legislature in the spring.

Other states without a budget on July 1 were Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin. In Pennsylvania and Michigan a budget passed the Legislature and was on the governor’s desk.

Christie on Friday ordered the shutdown of nonessential state services in New Jersey, putting pressure on Democratic lawmakers to overhaul New Jersey’s biggest health insurer.

Democrats worry if they don’t give in to Christie’s demands for the nearly $35 billion budget, he will use his line-item authority on education spending.

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Saturday marked the start of a third year without a budget for Illinois. The House convened Sunday as Democratic Speaker Michael Madigan scheduled a roll call on a $5 billion income tax increase many believe is necessary to balance the state budget. But Democrats amended the legislation Sunday and postponed action.

The budget problems started when a Republican governor, Bruce Rauner, took over in 2015, the year a temporary four-year tax increase ended. In his first budget year, Democrats ignored Rauner’s demands, and the state kept the same spending plan it had when it was collecting $7 billion a year more.

In Maine, lawmakers worked over the weekend but it appeared residents will deal Monday with the state’s first shutdown since 1991.

A budget deal in Wisconsin fell apart over how to pay to improve crumbling roads. Dwindling collections from the 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 Governor Scott Walker wants to borrow $500 million and delay some projects to save money. Some Republicans want to borrow even more, and the GOP discussed a new heavy-truck fee to raise $250 million. But that appeared to be dead along with any discussion of raising the gas tax.

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Oregon appeared to be on its way to passing a spending plan.

The drama started when Governor Kate Brown and fellow Democrats sought changes in the way the state taxes businesses. But Brown later relented. Additional revenue helped seal a deal. But there could still be disputes. In jeopardy is $670 million in taxes for health care. A Republican lawmaker will push to get 58,000 signatures to delay implementation of a law through a special election.