Illinois Lawmakers Hold Special Session Amid Budget Impasse

Illinois lawmakers tasked with resolving the state's unprecedented budget impasse are gathering to begin the effort, but there are scant few signs of progress in Springfield. 

Gov. Bruce Rauner has called a special session in Springfield that starts Wednesday, saying the time to act hasn't been more urgent, but House Speaker Mike Madigan is sounding his familiar themes as the special session begins. 

"My position is the same position that I've had for two and a half years: if we're going to have a balanced budget, we're going to have to balance cuts and new revenue," Madigan told reporters. 

If there's no budget by July 1, the state will begin a third consecutive year without a spending plan. Credit ratings agencies have already said they'll downgrade the state's worst-in-the-nation rating to "junk status." 

"We are headed toward an absolute disaster. Illinois is imploding," State Rep. David McSweeney said. 

The first-term Republican governor and Democrats who control the Legislature have been deadlocked since 2015.

Rauner says he wants pro-business reforms in conjunction with a budget. Democrats say they've approved several of those ideas, but Republicans keep changing their demands. Republicans say Democratic efforts fall short.

"There has to be a compromise," House Minority Leader Jim Durkin said. "We've said for the last two years reforms before revenue. That's what we're proposing." 

The stalemate over the budget is having real-life consequences for Illinois residents, and many legislators talked about those impacts as they reconvened in the state capitol. 

"Our state universities are crumbling," State Rep. Lou Lang said. "Our state service delivery system is almost non-existent. People with autism services and those who need mental health services aren't getting them." 

Even with the continued friction, one thing still hasn't happened: top legislative leaders from both sides have not met privately since December. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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