Illinois poised to enter a 2nd year without a budget

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois appears poised to enter a second year without a budget as Democrats who rule the Legislature press on with a spending plan Gov. Bruce Rauner opposes while rejecting his call for a short-term deal before they finish work Tuesday.

With hours before lawmakers adjourn, Rauner was already delivering a verdict on the past five months.

“Today we end the spring session of the General Assembly in stunning failure,” he said, blaming Democrats for prolonging the budget battle.

The Republican governor’s temporary budget proposal is a last-ditch effort to give the state some near-term stability after an 11-month stalemate between the Republican and Democratic lawmakers over a spending plan.

Democrats argue Rauner’s insistence on passing pro-business legislation and curbing the power of unions — one of their strongest constituencies — is the reason for the historic impasse.

Democratic leaders said they’ll consider Rauner’s suggestion but won’t have enough time to vote on it before they conclude this year’s session Tuesday night. Instead, they’ll proceed with an out-of-balance full-year budget plan Rauner has said he’ll veto.

Illinois has the dubious distinction of being the only state in the country without a budget for the current fiscal year, which began July 1. The stakes for getting a budget this time around are higher because public schools are afraid they won’t have funding to open this fall.

The Democrats’ budget proposal this year includes money for schools in a single spending bill, unlike last year when it was separated from the rest of the budget that Rauner vetoed. Schools were then largely spared the consequences of the budget impasse because Rauner approved their funding.

Rauner’s proposal would fund public schools through next year and provide support for financially-strapped social service providers and higher-education institutions through December.

Last week, Rauner’s administration opposed a temporary fix when Democrats first raised the idea but relented because lawmakers are hours away from finishing the session.

Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno said she was disappointed Democrats weren’t going to vote on a temporary budget that takes the state to January.

“If the Democrats leave here today without having done that, every single rank-and-file Democrat who sides with their leader against keeping the state operating wears the collar,” she said.

Republican House Leader Jim Durkin called it “laughable” to believe there isn’t enough time to pass a temporary fix and said Democrats have “been able to move mountains in matters of minutes” when they want to approve something.

Democrats remain deadlocked with Rauner and his fellow Republicans on how to pass a budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Rauner wants business-friendly legislation that he says will spur economic growth in exchange for signing off on a tax increase to address a $5 billion deficit. Democrats say Rauner’s ideas hurt the middle class.

The Senate is expected to consider a $40 billion budget on Tuesday that the House already passed. Rauner said he’ll veto it because it’s $7 billion out of balance.

Senate Democratic President John Cullerton first floated the idea of a short-term budget last week. Asked what he thought of the administration’s suggestion for a temporary solution, Cullerton said, “It makes my comments prescient,” and then proceeded to spell out the word. “P-R-E-S-C-I-E-N-T.”

Illinois lawmakers have one day left to end their stalemate before their spring session ends and it becomes more difficult. Lawmakers need a simple majority to pass a budget before they adjourn Tuesday night. After that they’ll need three-fifths support from each chamber.


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