Illinois looks poised to enter 2nd year without budget

AP News
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Posted: Jun 01, 2016 12:57 AM
Illinois looks poised to enter 2nd year without budget

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois appears poised to enter a second year without a budget after lawmakers finished their legislative session Tuesday without agreement on a spending plan, setting up a November electoral showdown while public schools and social service providers brace for an uncertain future.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's suggestion for a last-minute, short-term budget to give the state some near-term stability amid the 11-month impasse also failed to gain traction with Democrats.

Hours before adjournment, Rauner delivered 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 in what sounded like an election-year stump speech.

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

Come November, the wealthy former venture capitalist will try to chip away at Democrats' majorities in the House and Senate while they look to boost their numbers to impose their will on the first-term governor.

As the budget stalemate has dragged on, Democrats have refused to give in to Rauner's demands, and he hasn't back down, either. 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.

With about an hour to go before they finished work, Democrats had no viable budget proposal.

The Senate rejected the House's $40 billion budget plan, which was $7 billion out of balance. Meanwhile, with only hours before they adjourned, Senate Democrats pushed stand-alone proposal for public schools that Republicans decried as an unrealistic because it added nearly a billion dollars at a time when the state is running a massive deficit.

Senate President John Cullerton said lawmakers were working to find the money to cover the costs. He said the proposal is what Rauner asked for when he requested lawmakers fund education by itself so it wouldn't get caught up in a possible overall budget veto.

"I'm very certain we can sit down with the governor after this passes and we can work out the differences in our two approaches," Cullerton said.

The House overwhelmingly rejected the measure with minutes to go before adjournment.

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.

Rauner's temporary budget proposal sought to fund public schools through next year and provide support for financially-strapped social service providers and higher-education institutions through December.

"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," said Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno.

Last week, Rauner's administration opposed a temporary fix when Democrats first raised the idea but relented as the end of the session neared.

Lawmakers can keep working after the session ends and have said they will. But passing legislation will become more difficult. They needed a simple majority to pass a budget before adjournment Tuesday night. After that, they'll need three-fifths support from each chamber.

Democratic leaders said they'll consider the idea of a short-term solution over the coming weeks.

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Associated Press writers Sara Burnett and Ashley Lisenby contributed to this report.

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