Final Day of Legislative Session

The Illinois General Assembly failed to hash a grand bargain on the budget as the deadline came and went on Tuesday. Lawmakers are optimistic about a budget stopgap funding bill that would keep schools and social services open while allowing the state to carry on with its operations.

Lawmakers left the Capitol Tuesday without any spending plans to send the Governor. Two plans that would fund education were pieced together in the final minutes before the deadline but neither got the votes needed to pass.

Democrats had a major split over the two proposals, one from the House and the other the Senate. Both would fund education.

The Senate bill looked like it had a chance because it focused solely on K-12 funding, something Governor Rauner requested last week. But in the House it was torn apart by Republicans and Democrats alike. Some said they had let down the citizens of Illinois.

“This body, the General Assembly, has utterly failed its mission to pass a balanced budget,” Representative Jack Franks (D-Woodstock) said.

Republicans said a separate K-12 spending plan was a promising step in the right direction for a budget stopgap bill, but criticized the Senate plan as a bailout for Chicago. They said it was unfair for taxpayers across the rest of the state.

“For my friends that aren’t in the city of Chicago, let’s be clear, this is a Chicago bailout. This is a Chicago bailout,” Representative Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) said. “It appropriates more money to Chicago and Chicago Public Schools.”

Any hope for a last minute spending bill before the deadline died minutes before midnight in the House. Lawmakers now have just 30 days to come to some sort of spending plan agreement before the 2017 budget year begins. Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) is optimistic a stopgap budget bill can be done.

“We’re very close in effect that we both need to pass it,” Cullerton said. “The question is how much more money do we need to spend to make sure the schools don’t close.”

House Speaker Michael Madigan says he’s willing to negotiate with the Governor on a stopgap budget bill but passage by deadline is unlikely.

Senate President John Cullerton addresses the media after a Leaders meeting with the Governor.

Because of the missed deadline, any bill will likely require broad bipartisan support going forward. This means any agreement on a full budget including new revenue to cut the deficit may be impossible until next year.

“We’ve missed now a second year of revenue opportunities and so our debt is growing dramatically,” Cullerton said.

Lawmakers from both parties are encouraged they can find some agreement in the next month.

“The Senate’s plan, that we can take,” Representative Dan Brady (R-Bloomington) said. “There’s enough parts of a budget blueprint out there. We just have to put it together.”

Some school superintendents say they won’t be able to keep their doors open without some sort of budget deal. Some members of the General Assembly are worried our children’s education could be the next victim of the impasse.

“Let’s put a temporary budget in place and make sure schools open in August and the basics of government can keep functioning and try to meet on the larger issues right now,” Senator Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford) said.

The Governor is traveling the state making his pitch for fully funding schools and keeping critical services open through December.

Lawmakers will return on Wednesday to discuss their options.

Lights are on at the Statehouse as the Senate reconvenes to push through a K-12 spending plan with only three hours until the budget deadline.

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