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On Tuesday evening, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner delivered a three-minute televised speech at the Old State Capitol in Springfield in which he pushed for a “compromise” budget plan unveiled last week, which he said would end an “unnecessary crisis.” | Provided photo

Rauner calls for unity, House Dems call it campaigning

SHARE Rauner calls for unity, House Dems call it campaigning
SHARE Rauner calls for unity, House Dems call it campaigning

Legislators return to Springfield on Wednesday for the first of 10 days of a special session to try to end the historic budget impasse — with Gov. Bruce Rauner imploring them to “to do what is right,” and with the ball in IllinoisHouse Speaker Michael Madigan’s court.

Lawmakers have until June 30 to reach an agreement before a new fiscal year begins. While the pressure mounts, with billions in unpaid bills and with social service agencies and public universities left in the lurch — S&P Global Ratings has warnedthe state’s debt will be rated junk without a budget by July 1.

House Democrats, led by Madigan, left Springfield last month without taking up Senate budget bills.

On Tuesday evening, Rauner delivered a three-minute televised speech at the Old State Capitol in Springfield in which he pushed for a “compromise” budget plan unveiled last week, which he said would end an “unnecessary crisis.”

“Failure to act is not an option. Failure to act may cause permanent damage to our state that will take years to overcome,” Rauner said.

The governor implored lawmakers to “have the courage to do what is right, to act for the people.”

RELATED: In speech, Rauner urges lawmakers to ‘do what is right’

Perhaps an indication of how the special session will begin, House Democrats in turn called the televised event a “campaign speech” and accused the governor of “talking out of both sides of his mouth.”

“As he holds a campaign speech ostensibly calling for unity, he’s also bankrolling negative attack ads and mailers against House Democrats and the very people he is calling on to work with,” State Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, said in a statement.

Harris, who was appointed by Madigan as a lead budget negotiator, said the GOP and Rauner-supported budget plan was “not balanced.”

“It’s not the honest budget Illinois taxpayers deserve,” Harris said. “It’s clear that real negotiations and real compromise are needed.”

Asked earlier about any movement on budget bills, Harris said he has reviewed the Senate and Republican proposals with lawmakers. “Both have some things that are good in them. Both have some things that I think our caucus would disagree with. So [we’re] trying to put together a proposal to take back to our caucus and see, as we typically do, how much support there is,” Harris said.

House Democrats plan to caucus privately on Wednesday to review budget proposals, including the plan Rauner supports, which uses the “grand bargain” plan Senate Democrats already passed, as well as one introduced by State Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, as a basis.

There are, of course, differences. Rauner supports a four-year property tax freeze paired with a temporary income tax hike. The Senate passed a two-year freeze, arguing a longer one would harm poor school districts.

Ahead of the special session, Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said his goal is to get to a “real, sincere, genuine discussion about resolving the budget impasse.”

“It has to be between both sides. We’re not interested in being preached to, or being told ‘take it or leave it,’ which is what we have had for some time now,” Durkin said. “The budget impasse will only be resolved when the House Democrats will respect and recognize the House Republicans and their priorities to resolving the budget, as we will for them.”

Meanwhile, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton told the Sun-Times Editorial Board on Tuesday that he has spoken with Madigan and the members of budgetary working groups.

Cullerton implored “bold Republicans” to come forward in support of some of the most politically unpopular measures, like a revenue bill that would increase the income tax to 4.95 percent.

“At this point, the governor’s signature is less important. It has to pass both chambers,” Cullerton said.

Cullerton also pushed for legislative leader meetings with the governor, which haven’t happened since December.

“You find out at the leader level what it is that the other side wants. You privately negotiate. You go back to your caucus. You say, ‘Could you guys live with this’?” Cullerton said. “That’s how you work on these things. That’s how I was able to pass a budget in many, many caucuses.

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