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Senate Dems to try to go it alone on budget, tax votes

One credit rating agency was at least slightly encouraged by what Illinois lawmakers did over the weekend to end the state budget stalemate. | AP file photo

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois Senate Democrats appear ready to go it alone on voting Tuesday for a spending and revenue package that passed with bipartisan support in the House — with House Speaker Michael Madigan on Monday accusing Gov. Bruce Rauner of “intimidation” of legislators and declaring he’ll move to override his vowed vetoes.

If the measures pass, Rauner’s administration contends he’ll veto them as soon as they hit his desk. The Illinois General Assembly will then move to override the vetoes, and Democratic leaders hope they won’t lose votes.

The revenue, spending and budget implementation bills need 36 votes for approval, and Illinois Senate President John Cullerton was working Monday to drum up support in his caucus. The budget implementation bill cleared the Illinois House on Monday. There are 37 Democrats in the Senate, and there were no declared Republican supporters of the revenue bill on Monday. At least one Democratic senator is likely to vote no, which would require them to summon back a senator who has been ill.

Three days after a blown budget deadline, the power play between Rauner and Madigan continues.

In a video message on Monday, the governor blamed the state’s fiscal crisis on the speaker’s refusal for the past two years to pass his preferred reforms. And the speaker stuck to his assertions that the impasse would have been avoided if the governor hadn’t demanded reforms be tied to a spending plan.

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton plans to call the budget bills for a vote on Tuesday. | Tina Sfondeles/Sun-Times

Blame aside, there is some good news for the state as two major rating agencies — Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings — on Monday called the House passage a sign of progress.

Fitch said it is monitoring the developments, calling weekend developments “concrete progress on reaching an agreement to break the two-year long budget impasse.” S&P, meanwhile, issued a statement saying that the “increased likelihood that Illinois will soon have a budget in place is a development with significant credit implications.”

Emerging from a leaders meeting — sans Republican leaders — Madigan called House Republican support on a revenue bill the result of “an undue level of intimidation” by Rauner and his staff over Republican legislators.

“I think what you saw with Republicans engaging in bipartisan support through the bill in my judgment is a reaction to the positions adopted by Gov. Rauner, the tactics employed by Gov. Rauner and his staff over several months. So we have not had a normal legislative process in the Illinois Legislature, because there has been an undue level of intimidation by the governor and his staff relative to people in the Legislature.”

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, speaks with reporters after a leaders meeting at the Capitol, on Monday, July 3, 2017. | Ted Schurter/The State Journal-Register via AP

Madigan declared he only engages in “persuasion,” not intimidation.

On Sunday, 15 House Republicans voted for the bill to hike the income tax rate to 4.95 percent in order to try to resolve the budget impasse, which has stretched into its third fiscal year. One of them, Rep. Chad Hays, R-Catlin in central Illinois, announced Monday he’s resigning, blaming dysfunction in Springfield and the increased silence of lawmakers who have the “courage of their convictions and the intestinal fortitude to do what is right regardless of consequences.”

In a Facebook video, Rauner declared common ground on a budget was possible before negotiations broke.

“The Legislature could have passed a no tax hike, no reform, balanced budget two years ago. Instead they allowed Mike Madigan to play his political games, passed a phony budget, racked up our debt and inflicted pain on our most vulnerable,” Rauner said. “All of this to force a permanent 32 percent tax hike.”

Rauner said that if the Legislature passes a tax hike, there will be a need to “engage citizens and redouble our efforts to change the state.”

Madigan told reporters that Republican leaders skipped out on a leaders meeting on Monday afternoon but said he will continue to work with Republican leaders about changes to workers’ compensation and a property tax freeze.

While he described Republican support for the income tax as a show of resistance against Rauner, Republican leaders believe Democrats abandoned the negotiating process by moving forward with the votes. Illinois Republican Leader Jim Durkin’s office confirmed he wouldn’t attend a leaders meeting on Tuesday.

At issue are some of the requests made during negotiations. Durkin’s office contends Democrats asked for a “good faith” vote from Republicans on the spending plan, which they came through with last week, and an assurance they would help to override the governor’s veto of a bill which, in part, authorizes phone carriers to pay out 911 centers.

Both of those happened, yet Madigan — despite ongoing negotiations on reforms — moved forward with votes. And part of the spending bill that cleared the House included language to ensure another one of his requests, that an education funding formula be signed.

Rauner and Republican leaders still want a four-year property tax freeze paired with a four-year income tax hike. The measure passed in the House is a permanent tax hike.

On Sunday, 15 House Republicans joined with Democrats to approve the revenue package. Just two of those House Republicans areas are represented by Democratic senators.

Those House Republicans, with their senators, are as follows:
• Rep. Steve Andersson, R-Geneva (Sen. Karen McConnaughay, R-St. Charles)
• Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Mt. Vernon (Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo)
• Rep. John Cavaletto, R-Salem (Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon)
• Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer, R-Jacksonville (Sen. Sam McCann, R-Plainview)
• Rep. Mike Fortner, R-West Chicago (Sen. Randall Hultgren, R-Plano)
• Rep. Norine Hammond, R-Macomb (Sen. Jil Tracy, R-Quincy)
• Rep. David Harris, R-Mount Prospect (Sen. Tom Rooney, R-Rolling Meadows)
• Rep. Chad Hays, R-Danville (Sen Scott Bennett, D-Champaign)
• Rep. Sara Wojcicki Jimenez, R-Springfield (Sen. Sam McCann, R-Plainview)
• Rep. Charles Meier, R-Highland (Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon)
• Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Decatur (Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet)
• Rep. Reggie Phillips, R-Charleston (Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon)
• Rep. Robert Pritchard, R-Sycamore (Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford)
• Rep. David Reis, R-Olney (Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon)
• Rep. Michael D. Unes, R-East Peoria (Sen. David Koehler, D-Peoria)