Bipartisan budget group could have proposal this week: Bellock

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State Rep. Patti Bellock (from left), state Sens. Daniel Biss and Andy Manar and state Rep. David McSweeney at the City Club of Chicago. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

A bipartisan group of state legislators tasked with sorting out the state’s stalled budget could have some answers by the end of the week, a Republican legislator said Monday.

State Rep. Patti Bellock, R-Hinsdale, the deputy minority leader of the House and actively involved in budget talks, said the working group formed by the governor, with legislators from both parties, including those in charge of appropriations committees, are now meeting daily for several hours at a time.

The group has so far remained very tight-lipped about its progress.

But the state is in month 11 of an impasse, and lawmakers will have to go into a costly special session if they don’t reach a budget by the end of May. The impasse has caused the state’s unpaid bills to stack up in the billions and social service agencies have begun laying off staff.

Bellock told a City Club of Chicago audience, “They’re full-force working on trying to come up with a budget, in line item after line item after line item, and I haven’t seen that in a year and a half. . . . I just wanted to put that out there that there is a group working on that, and I’m hoping that by the end of the week they will put what they have in an agreement, and we’ll move forward and see how that goes.”

Powerful Democratic House and Senate leaders are at odds with the Republican governor’s “turnaround agenda.”

As Bellock’s colleague on the panel, Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, emphasized, the clock is ticking down to a May 31 deadline, after which a simple majority no longer suffices to pass legislation.

Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, whose school funding bill still awaits a vote, offered his own “bold prediction” to the City Club crowd.

“The question was what does an eventual budget look like? I think it’s going to look substantially similar to the budget that was passed last year that the governor vetoed,” he said.

“If there was a magic unicorn running through the Capital, somebody would have caught it by now, and they would have put it into a bill, and they would have signed it,” he added. “There are no easy choices.”

At a west suburban event to highlight the need for school funding reform, Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin on Monday also cited progress in the working groups when it comes to workers compensation reform, and he said the group would issue a report “very soon.” He also said there was progress with procurement reform and property tax relief.

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