Rauner threatens to keep lawmakers in Springfield if no budget by Friday

Gov. Bruce Rauner threatened Wednesday to keep lawmakers in Springfield indefinitely if they don’t pass a balanced budget by Friday, the end of the current fiscal year.

Rauner issued the terse, one-sentence statement as the eighth day of special sessions appeared to move the state no closer to adopting a full-year budget for the third consecutive year.

“If the legislature fails to send a balanced budget package to my desk by Friday, we will have no choice but to keep them in session until they get the job done,” Rauner said in the statement.


Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, issued his own statement afterward, saying that “now is not the time for the governor to give up.”

“We would hope that the governor would finally show the willingness to end this impasse and end the chaos,” he said.

Both Republicans and Democrats have accused the other side of not bargaining in good faith and wanting to keep the budget impasse going for political advantage.

Rauner called lawmakers into special session for the first time last Wednesday with the directive to pass a balanced budget and non-budget measures he said are essential to improving the state’s economy. Lawmakers have met in special session every day since, although both the House and Senate usually quickly adjourn the special sessions.

Leaders meeting

The four legislative leaders met again Wednesday for roughly an hour in House Speaker Michael Madigan’s office. Rauner was not present at the meeting.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said later the four will get together again today.


Madigan on Tuesday finally presented the House Democrats’ $36.5 billion spending proposal, something Republicans had been demanding. However, Madigan has yet to specify which tax hikes House Democrats are willing to support to ensure the spending plan will be balanced. Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, said the Democrats’ revenue plan will “live within the confines of the Senate numbers,” a reference to a $5.4 billion tax package approved by the Senate.

Madigan still hasn’t said if he would support making an income tax increase temporary rather than permanent. Rauner wants the income tax to expire after four years. The Senate plan — which raises the personal income tax by 35 percent — makes the tax hike permanent.

Meanwhile, the House took votes Wednesday on workers’ compensation changes, a property tax freeze, government consolidation and pension reform, four of the measures Rauner said need to be approved before he’ll entertain discussion of raising taxes to balance the budget.

The House approved the workers’ comp, pension and government-consolidation bills. All still face votes in the Senate.

The property tax freeze did not get enough votes to pass.

Even before the votes were taken, Durkin issued a statement denouncing them as “political theater and gotcha votes” orchestrated by the majority Democrats for political purposes.

Republicans almost uniformly voted against the bills. Springfield-area Republicans Avery Bourne of Raymond, Tim Butler of Springfield, C.D. Davidsmeyer of Jacksonville and Sara Wojcicki Jimenez of Leland Grove voted against all of the bills. Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur, voted against pension reform, but voted in favor of the other three.

Rep. David Harris of Arlington Heights was the only Republican to vote in favor of the property tax freeze bill.

“Is this bill perfect? No,” Harris said. “If this is what it takes to help get us to a budget, then I think we really seriously need to look to vote ‘yes’ on the bill. Even though it could be somewhat better, I don’t think it’s as bad to deserve a ‘no’ vote.”

Republicans said the freeze contained too many exemptions — for taxes needed for pensions and debt service and for financially distressed schools — and did not provide true property tax relief.

Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, said there was no point in postponing a vote.

“We are at 90 to 95 percent of what the governor asked,” she said. “The idea that we should wait, wait, wait doesn’t make much sense.”

Republicans aired similar complaints about the other bills, that they were the product of Democrats alone and not negotiations between the two parties. They complained the measures were watered down and that negotiations should continue on stronger legislation.

However, Democrats said the time had come to vote with just a couple of days left before the start of a new fiscal year.

“I’ve sat here and listened to the debate all day, and I’m frustrated,” said Rep. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago. “I’m frustrated because I hear (Republicans) continue to talk about we’re almost there if we just had more time. When are we going to stop playing games and understand that the single most important issue is the state of Illinois having a budget?”

“The bottom line is we are dealing with a governor who does not know the difference between compromise and capitulation,” said Rep. Christian Mitchell, D-Chicago. “What he wants is capitulation.”

Here’s the vote on House Bill 200, workers’ compensation reform.

Here’s the vote on Senate Bill 484, the property tax freeze.

Here’s the vote on House Bill 4045, pension reform.

Here’s the vote on House Bill 171, government consolidation.


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