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Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

On Day 1 of special session, Madigan calls for committees of the whole

SHARE On Day 1 of special session, Madigan calls for committees of the whole
SHARE On Day 1 of special session, Madigan calls for committees of the whole

SPRINGFIELD — With no action on the House floor on Day One of a special session, House Speaker Michael Madigan on Wednesday scheduled two sessions to allow legislators in both chambers to collectively discuss changes in workers’ compensation and a property tax freeze, a move characterized by Republicans as a waste of precious time.

The bottom line remains the same: The state is hemorrhaging without a full budget since July 2015, with Gov. Bruce Rauner and the speaker still at odds over budget priorities and reforms. And it’s impossible to predict whether an agreement will be reached ahead of the new fiscal year deadline, June 30.

As the blame game rages on, the Wall Street Journal — which has historically supported the Republican governor — argued in an editorial that Rauner’s offer to raise taxes to end the impasse is “political defeat” since he campaigned on lowering the income tax to 3 percent.

In a televised speech on Tuesday, Rauner pushed for an end to what he called an “unnecessary crisis,” while avoiding criticism of Madigan and other Democrats. And he vowed to put a stamp of approval on a Republican “compromise” plan, which includes his sought-after four-year property tax freeze paired with a four-year income tax hike, among other taxes.

Republicans say it’s high time for Madigan to show his cards with a tax and spending plan. And Democrats are questioning whether the governor is truly interested in ending the stalemate while running campaign-funded Madigan attack ads on TV.

Legislators returned to Springfield on Wednesday for the first of 10 special session days, which Rauner called for last week in hopes of breaking the impasse.

Madigan plans to discuss workers’ compensation on Thursday and the property tax freeze on Friday among “the committee of the whole,” essentially a parliamentary move that treats the entire House as a committee that can debate a measure and hear testimony, but not actually vote on it.

Leaving the caucus, Madigan said House Democrats are “fully prepared to engage with anyone who wishes to work with us to solve the budget deficit problem.”

The speaker said budget talks are continuing, but he said that the plan House Democrats are reviewing and the “compromise” plan Republicans favor are “not too far apart.”

“We have been working for several weeks through the [State Rep.] Greg Harris budget team. They have an outline of a spending plan. They’ve engaged with Republicans. They’ve engaged with the Senate Democrats. They’ll engage with anyone who wants to engage with them to fashion a spending plan that would be good for all Illinoisans,” Madigan said.

Asked about the lack of trust amid the historic budget impasse, Madigan pointed the finger elsewhere.

“People that have worked with me know that my word is good. There’s no problem with trusting me. If there’s some problem with trust around this building, it may be with somebody else,” Madigan said.

Senate Democrats passed a workers’ compensation measure as part of their “grand bargain” package. House Democrats too passed a reform measure on the last day of regular session last month. But Rauner and the Republicans said that bill didn’t go far enough.

Key Republicans involved in the “compromise” plan on Wednesday morning argued the special session is no time for committees of the whole. And they said they need action on reforms before they’ll help provide votes to pass a politically unpopular revenue bill.

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