Illinois governor cheers on effort to end budget impasse

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 25, 2017 4:31 PM

By Dave McKinney and Karen Pierog

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Illinois’ governor on Wednesday offered encouragement for a bipartisan bid to end the state’s record-setting budget stalemate, as Chicago’s mayor needled the chief executive for failing to deliver results.

Governor Bruce Rauner used his third State of the State address to nudge along efforts in the Senate to pass a behemoth budget omnibus that would include some of the nonbudgetary items he has sought unsuccessfully.

"Please don’t give up," he said. "Please keep working. Please keep trying. The people of Illinois need you to succeed.” He did not indicate whether he will support the 13-bill package, which includes some of the so-called reforms he has been advocating.

Since taking office in 2015, Rauner has feuded with the Democratic-led state legislature, leaving the nation's fifth-largest state without a full-year operating budget. No other state has gone 19 months, as Illinois has, without passing a budget.

The impasse has put the state’s public universities and human services on a starvation diet that has caused declining college enrollment and program cuts and layoffs.

“We are failing to be compassionate because we are failing to be competitive,” Rauner said in his speech to the legislature.

At a news conference in Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel took Rauner to task for the budget impasse, noting Illinois' huge unpaid bill pile has tripled and college students have been hurt under the governor's tenure.

"He is a (Republican) governor with a Democratic legislature. Maryland and Massachusetts have overwhelming Democratic bodies with Republican governors and they have done a budget on time all the time," Emanuel said.

Rauner has sought to insert items like legislative term limits, collective bargaining curbs and redistricting changes, which most Democrats oppose, as conditions for a budget.

Last week, Democratic Senate President John Cullerton and Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno had predicted votes on the package would begin Wednesday. But the plan appeared to hit legislative snags, driven in part by uncertainty over whether Rauner’s chief Democratic nemesis, House Speaker Michael Madigan, would kill the initiative in his chamber.

The speaker on Wednesday insisted on coming up with a budget free of measures that would hurt "middle-class families."

"Under my direction, the House will begin a thorough vetting process of proposals that will enable us to create jobs while also lifting up and helping the middle class and struggling families around our state,” Madigan said in a statement.

(Reporting by Karen Pierog; Editing by Matthew Lewis)