Rauner, Democrats far apart as ‘mess’ of shutdown looms

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A political impasse in Springfield intensified between Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democratic-controlled Legislature Tuesday as a deadline to avoid a government shutdown came and went with nary a hint of compromise between the two sides.

Rauner vetoed a series of budget bills last week required to keep state services funded. With no operating budget in place, an Illinois government shutdown was expected to begin to take hold Wednesday, the start of the new fiscal year.

Democrats were expected to vote Wednesday on a $2.2 billion, one-month budget to fund select, critical services, but lawmakers raised doubts that the House could find the 71 votes needed to advance the measure. That could end up delaying a temporary fix until next week.

Rauner vetoed the bulk of budget bills last week saying the overall budget was grossly out of balance. Democrats had said the governor could have proposed adding revenue or slashed the budget where he wished. On Tuesday, Rauner told Illinois workers the “pain” of a state shutdown could be worth it if major change comes to Illinois as a result.

That is, however, a big “if.”

Funding amounts

This chart details essential spending needs and their amounts as defined in the bill. Click here for a downloadable version.

Rauner has failed to make headway into brokering a deal with Democrats who instead say the governor is “operating in the extreme” by asking them to vote against their “core beliefs” in exchange for allowing Illinois’ bills to be paid. The state faces a deficit of some $4 billion, a hole that worsened in part by the Jan. 1 sunset of a temporary income tax increase.

On Tuesday, Rauner worked to distance himself from a shutdown of services, acknowledging on the one hand that he vetoed a budget, which gives the state authority to spend money, but saying on the other that state employees should get their paychecks.

“Obviously, we have a financial crisis developing in the state. … I want to make darned sure you guys are paid, you’re paid on time. This is going to be a stressful time for your families, I apologize for that,” Rauner told state employees at an emergency services center Tuesday morning. “We’ve got a mess. It’s going to take a little while to fix. I hope we can get it fixed promptly, we’re fully capable of it.”

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House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, continued to call Rauner’s demands for policy changes in exchange for a budget as “operating in the extreme.” Madigan said Rauner could have used his amendatory veto power to keep some services going, rather than a wholesale veto, triggering a shutdown.

“The governor’s advocacy of non-budget issues goes right to the core beliefs of many Democrats and many Republicans,” said Madigan, who painted Rauner’s pro-business, anti-union proposals as lowering wages and said his agenda “brings down the standard of living.”

Rauner though has repeatedly blamed Madigan and state Senate Leader John Cullerton for the state’s financial predicament, saying they have been beholden to public sector unions and the “political class,” rather than Illinois taxpayers. Rauner has insisted that lawmakers advance his changes to Illinois law if they want a budget passed.

Rauner wants changes in collective bargaining and prevailing wage as a condition of a passing a property tax freeze. He also has called for term limits, changes to the way legislative districts are drawn, changes to workers compensation laws and to rules governing lawsuits.

“We’ve attempted to meet him half way,” Madigan said Tuesday. He pointed to five votes the Illinois House has taken on a property tax freeze with all the “yes” votes coming from Democrats. Missing from that bill was Rauner’s proposals to change local collective bargaining rules and alter rules that require communities to pay a certain level of wages in construction projects. Democrats have called that language “a poison bill” that goes against their beliefs. Rauner has said that language is necessary to keep costs down for local governments.

Democrats were crafting a one-month budget to allow money to flow to some vital services such as probationary services, Medicaid, and services for the disabled.

“I think people ought to put away partisan politics and look at the real people who are going to be affected by this. One of our responsibilities is to listen to the people with the faintest voices. This is not in the abstract, this is not a statistic. These are real people who are going to be harmed,” said state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo. Franks is known for voting against his own party. This time though, he said he’s voting in favor of the one-month deal.

“Grandma is not going to get her medicine, Grandpa is not going to get his home delivered meal. We’re not going to have cops and conservation police. All this does is give some breathing room.”

However, a supermajority of votes are needed in both chambers to approve a temporary spending measure, and some Republicans were saying Democrats were unnecessarily in panic mode.

“We’re not at a point where everything will come to a screeching halt tomorrow morning. There is enough room with revenues right now to continue with basic services and payroll of state employees,” said Republican House Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs.

“Tomorrow’s vote is nothing more of what we’ve seen over the last month and a half, which is basically gotcha politics and more ammunition for negative mail pieces as opposed to being an adult and responsible and working on compromise on a budget with reforms,” he said.

Rauner has previously said he would veto a temporary budget. While leaving a House Republican caucus on Tuesday, the governor would not comment on a temporary budget bill.

Rauner last week vetoed the bulk of a budget sent to him by Democrats, calling it $4 billion out of balance. Rauner, a Republican, had offered a budget in February that had been criticized as more than $2.2 billion out of balance. But he has said he would only sign off on new taxes if Democrats agreed to his demands for changes in the law that he says would make Illinois more friendly to business.

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