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As deadline looms, Illinois House Dems could present ‘spending plan’ next week

SPRINGFIELD — House Democrats are working behind the scenes to craft a budget that is expected to fully close the door on integrating Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed “Turnaround Agenda.”

Whether their version ends up looking more like a “spending plan,” without a firm recommendation on which taxes to raise and by how much, remains to be seen. The state faces a $6.2 billion budget hole that experts have said cannot be fixed through cuts alone.

The plan to be presented by Democrats, likely early next week, will reduce spending below fiscal year 2015, sources said, but the cuts will not be as severe as proposed by Rauner’s proposed budget, which did not include new revenue.

Rauner’s plan proposed deep cuts to Medicaid, higher education and other social services and assumed $2.2 billion in pension savings that even the Civic Federation deemed unrealistic.

“It will be up to Republicans and the governor to have discussions about revenue,” one Democratic House member said.

Republican leaders Jim Durkin, of Western Springs, and Christine Radogno, of Lemont, blasted Democrats this week, saying they refused to take part in working groups — negotiating teams set up by Rauner. They complained that Democrats, who hold a supermajority in both chambers, were preparing to dump an unbalanced budget on them and then skip town. Lawmakers have until May 31 to pass a budget.

House Democrats complain that they have not seen legislative language from the governor’s office, and they want to present their version because there are just seven working days until the end of session.

And Democrats say the governor’s office has taken unreasonable positions in working groups. Democrats have opposed much of Rauner’s agenda, which takes aim at the power of unions in Illinois and has asked for changes in workers’ compensation and limits on lawsuits.

In recent weeks, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan has held “protest votes” in which he has put each of Rauner’s issues into bill form, then called a vote. The measures, including Rauner’s proposed cuts to social services and a measure to adopt right-to-work, anti-union measures, failed outright in the House. A series of additional votes is scheduled for Thursday, including on whether to amend the state constitution to impose a tax on those who earn more than $1 million a year, on workers’ compensation and tort reform.

Rauner has dismissed the series of votes as theatrics while his administration says it remains at the negotiating table.