Democrats Propose 1-Month Budget; Rauner Ready to Nix It

Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner appeared ready Tuesday to reject a Democratic proposal aimed at keeping state services functioning for another month, leaving the state without a way to pay bills and leading to questions about what will happen Wednesday morning.

House Speaker Michael Madigan, the state's most powerful Democrat, said Tuesday his short-term fix would provide $2.3 billion to cover one month of state police protection, Medicaid health care coverage for the poor and disabled, child care and more.

"The purpose here is to provide that we would avoid the government shutdown," the Chicago Democrat told reporters at the state Capitol after a day of politicians scurrying without a clear finish line in sight. Majority Democrats in the Senate were on board with the stop-gap plan.

Asked whether the governor would support Madigan's temporary budget, deputy chief of staff Mike Schrimpf pointed to Rauner's statement earlier in June that "an unbalanced short-term budget with no real reforms is still a phony budget and unacceptable to the people of Illinois."

Absent a budget deal, it's unclear what will happen with state government at the start of business Wednesday. Employee unions have said workers will punch in; there is enough money to pay them through mid-July. Services provided by private vendors could wind down or end because there's no guarantee there will be payment for them.

Rauner spent Tuesday morning visiting workers at state agencies, assuring them that he will do what he can to make sure they continue getting paid — the Democratic attorney general has warned his plan would be illegal. And Rauner bemoaned uncooperative Democrats who won't go along with business and political reforms he wants adopted before discussing the budget.

Rauner insists Illinois must freeze property taxes to give homeowners a break, put restrictions on liability lawsuits and compensation for workers' injuries to make business operations cheaper, allow for expansion and increase tax revenue. Term limits and impartial political map-drawing would keep officeholders accountable and thrifty, he says.

Madigan says the business changes would hurt middle-class workers and calls them "extreme."

Rauner turned that term against the opposing party, saying his plans make "extreme common sense."

"What is extreme in Illinois is our property tax burden, what is extreme is our deficit and our debt, what is extreme is our low economic growth, our low rate of job-creation and our high rate of conflicts of interest inside government," Rauner said.

Democrats sent Rauner a $36 billion spending plan in June. He vetoed it because it was short on revenue by up to $4 billion. Democrats say he could have spent only parts of it to keep government moving forward while talks continued.

Rauner on Tuesday dismissed the idea that the anticipated confusion and commotion surrounding a shutdown could cause more harm.

"Change is hard," Rauner said. "But we need to have change. If all we're going to do is keep the status quo, and if all we do is raise taxes to cover up the status quo, we'll continue in our long-term slow decline."

A letter from a lawyer in Rauner's personnel agency, obtained by The Associated Press, offered a rebuttal to the notion that the state can't pay workers without a budget. It says the circumstances surrounding a 2007 court ruling on paychecks during a budget impasse provide the means for approving full payroll now. Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the speaker's daughter, says that ruling did not set a precedent for future cases.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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