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Illinois governor vetoes budget bills, citing $4 billion deficit

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner on Thursday vetoed 19 budget bills that he said would create a nearly $4 billion deficit for the financially troubled state.

Republican Bruce Rauner smiles after winning the midterm elections in Chicago, Illinois, November 4, 2014. REUTERS/Jim Young

Rauner, a Republican who has been in an ongoing budget battle with the state’s Democratic majority legislature, said in a statement the veto is to “protect Illinois taxpayers from an unbalanced and therefore unconstitutional budget.”

Rauner on Wednesday signed into law school funding legislation, marking the first fiscal 2016 budget bill passed by Democratic lawmakers to be enacted.

In total, Democrats had passed a $36.3 billion budget that relied on cuts and at least $3 billion in yet-to-be-identified new revenue for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Rauner, though, wants lawmakers to adopt his so-called turnaround agenda.

Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger said earlier this month that if Illinois does not have an enacted budget when its fiscal year starts on July 1, state workers’ paychecks and payments of money owed to vendors and school districts will stop.[ID:nL1N0YW1BT}

Payments on Illinois’ $30 billion of outstanding bonds, however, would continue.

There will not be a strike by the biggest union representing state workers and the state will not lock out workers in July, according to a joint statement from Rauner’s office and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31.

The month-long agreement will allow the two sides to continue negotiations over a new contract to replace the one that expires on Tuesday “without the threat of disruption to important public services,” the statement said.

Letters were sent to state agency directors on Wednesday to ask that they bring government shutdown preparation plans to a House committee hearing next week, said Steve Brown, a spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Democrat.

Brown said Rauner missed an opportunity “to avoid disrupting the lives of many, many middle-class families.”

“We cannot accept the status quo of throwing more taxpayer money into a broke and broken system,” Rauner said in an opinion piece published on Thursday in the Chicago Tribune.

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton said that he would take time to discuss next steps with other legislators.

“It appears that the governor would rather move the state toward a shutdown rather than reasonable compromises that protect the middle class with a balanced approach to budgeting,” said Cullerton, a Democrat, in a statement.

Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Additional reporting by Karen Pierog; Editing by Lisa Lambert and Lisa Shumaker