Dems to send budget bills to Rauner next week for action

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SPRINGFIELD — Democratic leaders are preparing to send Gov. Bruce Rauner budget bills next week, meaning the governor could veto a spending plan and possibly open up the state to a shutdown, in a matter of days.

“The budget has been a public document since we passed it, so the administration has had time to review and analyze it,” said Rikeesha Phelon, spokeswoman for Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago.”It’s our intention to start sending him the actual bills for action next week. . . . He has options. If he doesn’t want to sign it, if he would rather force a shutdown, then that is a problem that he would own.”

The governor’s office responded Wednesday by saying there was still plenty of time for a deal to be reached before the start of the next fiscal year, July 1.

Rauner has vowed to veto the Democratic plan, calling it out of balance by $4 billion. That’s because neither side wants to wear the jacket on raising taxes. Democrats complain that it was Rauner who urged them to allow a temporary state income tax increase to sunset at the beginning of the year, worsening an already gaping budget hole. Rauner counters that Democrats got the state into the fiscal mess, and he won’t agree to raise taxes until certain reforms are put into place.

“He has options that include reducing spending lines to a level he feels appropriate and manageable for the administration,” Phelon said. “The other options include having conversations with the legislative leaders about how to generate income to bridge the gap by the revenue hole . . . We hope he will consider taking a balanced approach to budgeting just like a family would do . . . look at both sides of the ledger.”

Phelon said if Rauner outright vetoes the bills, then a shutdown is “all but a certainty.”

“There are options, leaders like Cullerton are willing to find a way to work it out,” she said. “And there’s still time to do that.”

A governor spokeswoman said if lawmakers were truly willing to compromise, they would adopt some of Rauner’s proposed reforms, including a property tax freeze and changes to the workers-compensation law.

“The governor has made clear for weeks that the budget passed by Speaker Madigan and the legislators he controls is unbalanced and unacceptable. The governor remains committed to working with legislators to enact reforms that protect the middle class, free up resources for the most vulnerable, grow jobs throughout the state and help produce a responsible, balanced budget,” Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said in a statement to the Sun-Times. “While the governor has compromised repeatedly, it’s disturbing that majority party legislators continue to reject reasonable reforms and a balanced budget. If they have any interest in real reform and a responsible budget, there is no reason a deal can’t be reached beforeJuly 1.”

Rauner has launched a new TV ad telling Illinois residents he is trying to follow through on a campaign promise to “shake up Springfield.”

Steve Brown, spokesman for Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, D-Chicago, said the budget bills will be sent to the governor “before the end of the month,” but he wasn’t aware of an exact date.

“The government will continue to operate” and various things could happen, including an override of the veto. In the past, lawmakers have passed temporary budgets until a long-term compromise could be reached.

Brown said he hasn’t heard of any short-term plan discussed.

Contributing: Becky Schlikerman

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