Democrats Draft Budget With 4 Days Left in Session

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan said Monday that Democrats are finalizing a proposed state spending plan that could be ready for Republican scrutiny as early as Tuesday, with just four days before Illinois begins a third year in a row without a budget.

Partisan statements were measured and verged on the hopeful Monday, the sixth consecutive day of special legislative session called by GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner after Democrats who control the General Assembly failed to send him a fiscal blueprint by the May 31 end of the spring session.

The two-year stalemate, the longest of any state since at least the Depression, has driven the annual budget deficit to $6.2 billion and spawned a $15 billion heap of overdue bills.

Democrats have resisted Rauner's calls for mixing into budget discussions other issues including cost-saving changes to workers' compensation, state-employee pension-benefit programs, and a local property tax freeze, among other things. Democratic and Republican House designees are negotiating compromises on those issues.

Whatever deals result, Madigan warned that Rauner is the wild card and Republican lawmakers must convince him to climb aboard.

"It will be up to the Republican leaders to take those positions to the governor and persuade the governor to be reasonable," Madigan said.

Rauner spokeswoman Eleni Demertzis declined comment. She pointed to a Rauner tweet Tuesday noting that lawmakers have "four more days to send a balanced budget to my desk. Stop wasting time."

Neither Madigan nor his budget negotiator, fellow Chicago Democratic Rep. Greg Harris, would say how similar the plan is to one the Senate passed in May. That was a $37.3 billion plan paid for with $5.4 billion in mostly income-tax increases and $3 billion in spending reductions.

Earlier Monday, Durkin, a Western Springs Republican, called negotiations on workers' comp, a pension overhaul and a property-tax freeze "a positive step forward, but that's not everything."

"Show us your budget," Durkin said. "We have our budget and (let's) begin reconciliation. We have 4 ½ days, but the longer this goes on, the more difficult it makes it for me" to round up sufficient GOP votes to satisfy Madigan's demand that both sides share the burden.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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