Illinois governor vetoes $3.9 billion FY 2016 spending bill

Republican Bruce Rauner smiles after winning the midterm elections in Chicago, Illinois

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner on Friday vetoed a bill passed by the Democratic-controlled legislature in April to spend nearly $3.9 billion on state services that have not been funded due to an ongoing fiscal 2016 budget impasse.

The Republican governor called the legislation “an empty promise.”

“The bill purports to appropriate $3.89 billion, including more than $3 billion in general funds that the state does not have, for higher education and social service providers, but provides no source of funding,” Rauner said in his veto message.

The political stalemate between Rauner and Democrats has left Illinois as the only U.S. state without a complete fiscal 2016 budget, operating instead on court-ordered spending and a muddled patchwork of ongoing and stopgap appropriations.

Rauner called on lawmakers to pass complete balanced budgets for the current and next fiscal years, although the governor has proposed funding most fiscal 2017 services with a temporary spending plan and K-12 schools with a full-year budget.

Illinois’ new fiscal year begins on July 1.

The Democrats’ spending bill passed with enough votes in the Senate to override a veto, but fell short of that margin in the House.

The measure would have sent money to cash-starved state universities and colleges, covered tuition grants for low-income college students, and funded health and human services that were not subject to court orders. The measure also appropriated about $63 million for unpaid wage increases owed to about 24,000 unionized state workers.

(Reporting by Karen Pierog; Editing by Matthew Lewis)