Lawmakers Reconvene for Budget Negotiations, Veto Sessions: Reports

As lawmakers prepare to reconvene in Springfield Tuesday for the final string of veto sessions, some pivotal measures remain on the table.

As lawmakers prepare to reconvene in Springfield Tuesday for the final string of veto sessions, some pivotal measures remain on the table.

Perhaps most importantly, state leaders are expected to resume budget negotiations Monday. Last week, Gov. Bruce Rauner explained that he had amended his 44-point “turnaround agenda" to a simple five-point plan, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Rauner’s plan is now focused solely on workers’ compensation reform, education reform, pension reform, term limits and a property tax freeze. In addition, the Republican is also championing reforms that would grow the state’s struggling economy, although he is open to finding a compromise with House Speaker Michael Madigan on the issue.

“No one particular reform has to be on the table,” Rauner said during a Monday interview with NBC 5. “I’ll be flexible on whatever we do. The critical thing is, we have to send a message to job creators around the country and around the world that it’s a new day in Illinois."

Additionally, Rauner has made it clear that he's willing to negotiate a property tax freeze. According to the State Journal-Register, Rauner is now open to a property tax compromise that isn't necessarily tied to giving local governments the right to restrict collective bargaining to control costs, a caveat the Democratic-controlled General Assembly has opposed.

This week, there are also some important House hearings. On Monday, a House committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on a measure filed by House Republican Leader Jim Durkin that looks to cut costs by overhauling workers’ compensation, according to the State Journal-Register.

Durkin criticized the timing of the meeting, calling it “premature” in a letter to Democrats, which was obtained by the State Journal-Register.

“Our goal should be to use the legislation as a starting point for discussion at our leaders’ meeting,” Durkin said in the letter.

Madigan spokesman Steve Brown disagreed, claiming a committee hearing was an effective way to get feedback on the issue, according to the report. Instead, Brown suggested that the House was willing to work from 2011 reforms to save money.

On Wednesday, a separate House hearing is scheduled to address the findings of a 2015 report of the Local Government and Unfunded Mandates Task Force. Implementing recommendations from the report could help control statewide costs, the State-Journal Register reports.

John Patterson, spokesman for Senate President John Cullerton, told the paper that the Democratic leader is currently reviewing the report's findings. Rauner distributed the report at the last leaders’ meeting earlier this month.

“I believe there were several piece of legislation filed and past (last spring) in the Senate as a result of that report,” Patterson told the State Journal-Register.

Another important issue on this week’s docket is a push to save the state’s struggling nuclear power plants. The plan, which is being considered a corporate bailout by consumer advocates, would grant billions in subsidies to power companies in order to keep plants open, according to the Associated Press.

Rauner warmed to the proposal after a peak-demand pricing plan was dropped. The company claimed seven in 10 customers would have saved money, but critics said it would create unpredictable price spikes. Rauner has said that he wants to protect jobs, but fears increased power rates.

“We can’t have our energy costs go through the roof or we’ll lost more jobs,” Rauner said in Chicago last week. “If we raise the energy costs for entrepreneurs that need to consume a lot of energy, they have to lay people off. Saving some jobs at a plant won’t matter. So we need a balance.”

The legislation was still being reworked last week and spokesmen for Madigan and Cullerton said the Democratic leaders aren’t yet ready to sign onto the plan, according to the State Journal-Register.

This week, lawmakers will also have the chance to override some of Rauner’s vetoes. During this month’s first veto sessions, the Senate voted to override Rauner’s vetoes of seven bills. This includes vetoes on automatic voter registration and legislation that would increase the pay of home health care workers from $13 an hour to $15 an hour, the State Journal-Register reports.

According to the report, Madigan’s Democratic House supermajority attempted to override the governor’s vetoes on four House bills earlier this month, but failed.

The Senate-approved overrides will now be sent to the House for approval. If the House can’t override those vetoes, the bills will be dead.

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