‘Stunning Failure': No Budget Solution Reached as Spring Legislative Session Ends

Illinois’ budget standoff will likely stretch into its second year as lawmakers were unable to come to an agreement before the end of the spring legislative session Tuesday

Illinois’ budget standoff will likely stretch into its second year as lawmakers were still unable to come to an agreement in the final hours before the end of the spring legislative session Tuesday.

Senate Democrats were able to push through a K-12 funding bill Tuesday night that mirrors the plan in House Speaker Mike Madigan’s budget proposal. The bill passed following a rousing debate, but was later shot down in the House. 

Madigan’s budget proposal, which passed in the House last Thursday, was shot down by the Senate. The announcement was met by a smattering of applause.

With no bipartisan budget deal in sight, Rauner announced two stopgap funding bills earlier in the day that focused on funding K-12 education and other essential government services, like state colleges and social services. 

"We are calling on the General Assembly: don’t wait, don’t hold our schools hostage, don’t hold our government operations hostage, don’t hold the people of Illinois hostage," Rauner said during a capitol press conference. "These two bills now to bring stability to our state while we continue to negotiate in good faith on reforms through the working groups and we get through this crisis."

Under Rauner's K-12 funding plan, schools would be fully-funded and an additional $105 million would be allocated to give extra funding to school districts that get less under the state's funding formula. 

The governor’s other stopgap measure would fund the state's essential government services, university system, healthcare system and corrections system through January. Rauner noted that Senate President John Cullerton had told him that Democrats were holding out on voting on reforms until after November's general election, so the bill would serve as a stop-gap until serious discussions resume.

The governor said the session ended in a “stunning failure” and faulted Illinois Democrats, who hold a majority in both houses of the General Assembly, for not passing a balanced budget in time. The governor also told reporters that Senate President John Cullerton made it clear that Democrats were holding out on voting on reforms until after November’s general election. 

Rauner and other Republican leaders pushed the General Assembly to pass the stopgap legislation before the session’s midnight deadline, to no avail. The impasse will now likely stretch into it’s second year, as legislation will now require a 3/4 supermajority to pass.

The impasse dates back to last June when the Illinois House adjourned the 2015 spring session without making a budget deal.

Last June, Rauner vetoed a Democratic budget proposal, claiming it was $4 billion out of balance, but signed off on a portion of the measure that dealt with funding public elementary and high schools.

"I am disappointed and frustrated with the General Assembly," Rauner said at the time.

Over the course of the following 10 months, Illinois Democrats and Republicans battled over the state’s budget, adversely affecting health and social services and public colleges and universities.

The state has relied on court orders and consent decrees for funding over the course of the impasse and has failed to make payments for certain schools and services because money was not appropriated in a budget.

As a result, a group of Illinois-based human and social service agencies and companies filed a lawsuit against Rauner and members of his administration in May seeking payment for over $100 million. An early-childhood-education nonprofit led by the governor’s wife, Diana Rauner, joined the lawsuit later in the month.

Additionally, Chicago State University was forced to lay off more than 300 employees in April after cutting the semester short to save critical funds.

The budget impasse has hinged on Rauner’s Turnaround Agenda, which is focused on pension reform, term limits, weakening unions, freezing property taxes and redistricting workers compensation.

Throughout the stalemate, Rauner has focused on these sweeping reforms dedicated to growing the state’s economy and increasing revenue while Democrats focused on tax increases and cuts to the state’s budget.

Despite widespread criticism, Rauner stuck to his guns on the pro-business agenda throughout the impasse.

“We need a balanced budget, we need compromises for our economy, protect taxpayers, especially property taxpayers,” Rauner said last Monday. “And get reforms on pensions and other issues so we can have a more efficient, effective government, protect our taxpayers and most importantly grow our economy with our job creators having more confidence in the future policies coming out of our government.”

In February, Rauner addressed the Illinois General Assembly to outline his plan for 2017’s state budget despite a the state's impasse.

In recent months, Rauner has pushed for a balanced budget solution, or what he called a "grand compromise," while a handful of bipartisan “working groups” devised solutions.

Nevertheless, Illinois House Democrats pushed through a budget proposal Wednesday that had no trace of Rauner’s agenda. The governor staunchly opposed the measure, even before it was passed.

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