Illinois Lawmaker Tells Colleagues to Stop Driving State Cars until Budget Crisis Ends

In the tenth month of a budget impasse, one Illinois lawmaker is making news about how the state should respond to its inability to pass a budget.

Speaking to the Champaign News-Gazette, Illinois State Rep. Bill Mitchell is demanding Illinois state vehicles stop traveling on roads until a budget is passed.

The state’s budget situation has closed state parks as well as left state universities facing potential cuts and layoffs. Another way the budget is affecting regular Illinoisans is on the state’s roadways. If a motorist is involved in a collision with an Illinois state vehicle in which the state vehicle is at fault, the motorist will not be paid by the state.

Mitchell, a Republican representing the Decatur area, gave his interview after mentioning that one of his constituents was involved in an accident with a state vehicle and was not paid for the damages:

“In essence we’re driving uninsured cars, and that makes people mad because the state requires, correctly, that they have insurance. But we, in essence, don’t. . . . Now, the state will say we do have insurance but we just can’t pay out. So I think we should just ground the fleet until we can pay out.”

According to Meredith Krantz, spokesperson for Central Management Services, there are approximately 225 outstanding claims involving state vehicles:

“We are anticipating the total for those payments to be approximately $615,000 – this number includes the claim expense and associated administrative costs.”

Without a budget resolution, the state is projected to be another $6 billion in debt by the end of June. According to Truth in Accounting, the situation is graver: up to $118 billion in debt is unreported.

Since Bruce Rauner became governor in early 2015, he has been battling with the Democratic-controlled legislature. Rauner, a Republican, has agreed tax increases are inevitable for resolving the Illinois budget deficit, but not without political reforms that would purportedly prevent the state from slipping back into the financial trouble that caused the situation. Among the reforms Rauner has pushed for is the restriction of liability lawsuits and changes to workers’ compensation.

In a state often seen as synonymous with dysfunction and partisan monopoly, the budget deadlock may become simply another chapter in the political history of Illinois. However, Mitchell expressed optimism for the situation and concluded his interview by saying, “I’m hopeful that reason prevails and that we can get this thing done. The longer it goes, the worse it gets.”

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