Democrats Give No Hint of Compromise With Rauner on Budget

Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposals would impose term limits on lawmakers, freeze property taxes and tweak workers' compensation policies

Majority Democrats in the Illinois General Assembly gave no hint on Friday that they are ready to budge from opposition to Gov. Bruce Rauner's pro-business reforms after the Republican softened some of his "Turnaround Illinois" demands.

House Democrats spent part of the day holding the latest in a series of symbolic votes to show how little support exists for elements of Rauner's plan, the same thing they have been doing for days. Republicans have criticized the symbolic votes as political grandstanding.

Democrats are also continuing working behind the scenes on their own budget without the input of Rauner or Republicans in the Legislature.

"I think the budget will be on the governor's desk by the end of session," House Speaker Michael Madigan's spokesman Steve Brown said of the May 31 deadline for the regular session. Any budget passed after that date would need a three-fifths majority, a more difficult bar to clear. "We're going to wind the session down. There's no good reason to stay here longer."

"We can come back in the fall, or the winter," Brown said of dealing with Rauner's proposals.

With their supermajorities, Democrats could send Rauner a budget without any Republican votes, forcing him veto the entire budget, use his authority to cut specific spending items or sign the measure into law.

In another indication it could be a long, hot summer in Springfield, Republican legislative leaders said they were less concerned about the May 31 adjournment than deadlines later in the summer for state payrolls and checks that need to be sent to public schools.

The stalemate stems from the first divided Illinois government in 12 years. Rauner, a wealthy private equity executive, is more accustomed to negotiating business deals than with an unwieldy Legislature. He has barnstormed the state demanding Democrats approve his priorities before he considers raising taxes to help fill an estimated $6 billion revenue hole in the budget. Rauner has presented a spending plan that balances the state budget entirely by slashing money for programs and services. The Democratic-led legislature objects to the deep cuts in social programs. It has the power to pass a budget with Democratic priorities, and they could choose not to consider Rauner's proposals.

Rauner put several of his proposals in writing on Friday and they were introduced as bills to the Legislature by Republican caucus leaders.

Rauner's spokesman, Lance Trover, said in an emailed statement to The Associated Press that the governor is "ready and willing to work with the General Assembly to get real structural reforms and a balanced budget. These bills represent a compromise based off of months of discussions with Republican and Democrat legislators."

The bills would impose term limits on lawmakers, freeze property taxes and tweak workers' compensation policies. Another bill would make it tougher for people to file lawsuits against businesses. Rauner is also backing legislation introduced earlier this year to allow municipalities to file bankruptcy.

Not included is legislation to create right-to-work zones where union membership would be voluntary — a proposal that has drawn strong protests from organized labor and that House lawmakers soundly defeated during a symbolic vote last week.

But the legislation does include measures to allow some local governments to opt out of collective bargaining with public-employee unions and prevailing wage agreements, which set a wage level for public sector projects such as construction.

The General Assembly went into overtime under Rauner's two Democratic predecessors, former Gov. Pat Quinn and now imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, but impasses were resolved before checks needed to be sent out to schools beginning their academic year, Republican Senate Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont noted.

"We have to do everything that we can to wrap this up," House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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