Opposition Arises To State Senate Budget Plan

Jan 25, 2017

The Illinois Senate is putting the brakes on a compromise budget plan, but a key Democrat says there still could be a floor vote this week.

Credit Flickr user Jim Bowen / "Illinois State Capitol" (CC BY 2.0)

Oak Park Sen. Don Harmon, President Pro Tempore of the Senate and Democratic Executive Committee Chairman, says some members weren't ready to vote on the massive proposal designed to break a nearly two-year budget deadlock with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Senate President John Cullerton, a Democrat, says he understands their narrow concerns.

"You've got to look at the big picture," he said. "It's not your job to not look at the big picture, it's our job. So I understand where you have to come from. ... If we're going to fight this forever, we're going to never solve any problems in this state."

Cullerton negotiated the deal with his Republican counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont, who set a Feb. 1 deadline for Senate action.

The package has many moving parts, including a minimum-wage increase, cuts to government pensions, and higher income taxes. A diverse group of naysayers emerged, spanning the political spectrum from big business to organized labor.

Senate leaders had hoped to put the deal up for a vote this week, but opposition from interest groups — and among senators — could make that difficult.

Cinda Klickna is head of the Illinois Education Association, one of the state’s two big teacher unions.

At a committee hearing, she spoke against a proposed two-year property tax freeze. Klickna says many schools are already strapped.

“Instead of trying to find an answer to that funding question," she said, "we are discussing legislation that would actually worsen the already terrible situation."

State Sen. Chris Nybo, R-Elmhurst, called the package "fluid" and says it still needs discussion and negotiation.

Harmon says Senate leaders still hope to have floor votes today.

  • Illinois Public Radio's Brian Mackey and The Associated Press contributed to this report.