House Dems want all hands on deck for 30-day budget

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On tougher days, a friend or colleague would get him there.

Other times, he’d try to make it, but by the time his chemotherapy treatment had ended, he’d be too late for the day’s session.

Over the last roughly six months that state Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, has battled esophageal cancer, he’s missed at most three days of legislative session, he says.

This week, in the midst of preparing for surgery later this month related to his illness, Mautino said Democrats could again count on him driving the 150 miles to the state Capitol to cast what’s likely to be a critical vote.

They’ll need him.

“Absolutely, I will be there,” Mautino said on Tuesday. “I’m looking forward to it. I hope that wepass it. I hope that the governor chooses to sign it.”

House Democrats are counting on every member of their caucus to vote in favor of a 30-day, $2.2 billion emergency budget, which passed the Senate last week. House members are meeting late afternoon Wednesday as Democrats take a head count. The vote is likely to take place early Thursday morning. Democrats want to pass it this week, ahead of a July 15 fiscal pressure point; that’s when many payments are due to social service agencies that rely on state funding.

Democrats need a three-fifths-majority vote to pass the emergency plan, so every one of the 71 Democrats in the House needs to show up — and vote yes.

That tally is needed to pass a bill during the extended session, once the regular session ended May 31. But it also would be enough to override any subsequent veto.

RELATED:Brown: State paycheck pain may be only crisis cure Judge: No budget, only minimum wage — and only for some workers

The state’s new fiscal year started July 1 without a budget, except for education — the one budget bill Gov. Bruce Rauner signed. In June, Rauner vetoed the remainder of budget bills sent to him by the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

With a judge on Tuesday ruling that only some state workers could be paid – and at the federal minimum wage rate — the pressure will be even more intense in Springfield on Wednesday for lawmakers to open the valve and allow cash to start flowing.

Meanwhile, state service agencies are turning up the heat on lawmakers back in their districts.

“Stress levels are so high around here. They’re getting letters left and right from the administration,” suspending services, said state Rep. Fred Crespo, D-Hoffman Estates.

Rauner’s office has said he would veto a temporary budget, calling the $2.2 billion spending proposal out of balance. Republicans on Tuesday said they would oppose a one-month fix, arguing Democrats are only offering more of the same — out of balance spending.

Democrats argue it can’t be out of balance since a one-month plan doesn’t necessarily represent 1/12th of the total fiscal budget.

“There’s noguarantee there will be another one of these,” said state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo. Franks is one of two Democrats who has bucked trends in the past and voted against budgets presented by his party. Franks said he believes both sides need the pressure off and some breathing room to negotiate.

So on this vote, all hands are on deck.

“People who receive services are apprehensive,” Franks said of people in his district. “People who are workersare apprehensive.”

But advancing a temporary fix detracts from the bigger issue, said state Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills.

“Legislators are paid $67,000 a year. We should be doing our job. Nobody’s been able to explain to me why we aren’t in session full timetrying to adopt a permanent budget without a tax increase,” McSweeney said. “We’re paid by the taxpayers to doour job.”

After Tuesday’s court ruling, Rauner offered a change of course on getting paychecks to state workers, saying he would sign off on paying funds to state employees, despite not having a budget, if lawmakers advanced the measure.

“Last year the General Assembly passed a law to guarantee their salaries are paid with or without a state budget,” Rauner spokesman Lance Trover said in a statement.”As a matter of fairness, the governor would support a similar continuing appropriations for this fiscal year for all state employees.”

After the judge ruled that state employees couldn’t be paid full wages without a budget, Rauner’s office sent state employees an email saying it was pushing legislation that would put all state workers on equal footing with lawmakers.

“Our Administration is currently drafting legislation that will make state employee pay a continuing appropriation for the fiscal year, guaranteeing you get paid,” the letter states. “Legislators are already guaranteed their pay this month under continuing appropriations —you should be too. The legislation will be introduced by [House Republican] Leader [Jim] Durkin and [Senate GOP] Leader [Christine] Radogno as soon as it is ready.”


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