Illinois lawmakers are set to spend the bulk of the Memorial Day weekend at the capitol, as Illinois edges closer toward entering a third straight year without a complete budget.
Thursday saw movement at the capitol on a smattering of legislation: Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson was at the statehouse to help advance a revised bill cracking down on repeat gun offenders. A bill that would allow people to change the gender markers on their birth certificates moved passed the House, as did a measure to create an elected school board in Chicago.
But instead of movement on a budget, there was merely more political theater.
The Senate did some heavy lifting earlier this week, when Democrats passed a budget to cover all of fiscal year 2018 and the remainder of this fiscal year (which runs through June) as well as $5.4 billion worth of tax increases to help fund it. The chamber has also approved plans to give Illinois six new casinos, overhaul state pensions and change how schools are funded.
The big question remains: What, if anything, will the House do with those measures?
The man who'd best be able to answer those questions, House Speaker Michael Madigan, hasn't made himself available to reporters.
Rep. Steve Andersson, R-Geneva, on Thursday sounded a call for the House to pick up where the Senate left off, make necessary changes and then get that plan “across the finish line.”
“My call most importantly is to compromise. To our leaders, please take the bold steps needed to compromise. To our rank and file: Let’s support our leaders in making those hard choices to compromise. And as needed, let’s push our leaders as hard as we can to help them make hard choices,” he said. “The people are fed up, and they’re deservedly so. Let’s end this impasse! Let’s get a deal finished.”
Andersson was one of 33 legislators who signed onto a letter a few weeks back, encouraging the Senate to keep up with the “grand bargain.” In the end, that didn't totally come to fruition: While some of the Senate measures had Republican support, the budget and taxes just got Democratic votes. Republicans say Democrats quit negotiating even as they were close to a deal, while Democrats say time ran out and the GOP kept moving the goal line.
But Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, says while it's one thing for Republicans to say they want a budget, it's another for them to actually vote for one – especially if it means defying Rauner.
“We need to see some courage from people who are willing to pull away from the governor of the state of Illinois, discuss the issues he has on his mind, but then do the job we were elected to do in this chamber. To now kowtow to a differ branch of government,” Lang said. “And when you stand up and tell him – the chief executive of the state of Illinois – that it’s time to do his job and it’s time to get the budget done, and it’s time to end this crisis, that’s when the crisis will end.”
Rauner is the main funder of the Illinois Republican Party, and GOP legislators have voted mostly in lockstep with his wishes.
The governor made the rounds on local TV and radio Wednesday evening and Thursday morning, and repeated – at time, verbatim – his desire for a budget, coupled with blame on Democrats, particularly Speaker Madigan, for their desire to taxing, spending to protect their “cronies” and to stand in the way of change.
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May 24: Illinois representatives Wednesday are beginning to vet the $37.3 billion spending plan – as well as the tax hike that would support it – passed a day prior by their Senate peers.
May 24: Some high-profile civic groups are getting together to pressure state lawmakers to finally get a full-year budget done.
May 23: Democrats in the Illinois Senate on Tuesday passed what could be the state’s first complete budget in two years and a revenue package that includes a 32-percent increase in the personal income tax rate.