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WNIJ's summary of news items around our state.

Session's In! But What Are Illinois Legislators Going To Do?

State of Illinois

Members of the Illinois House and Senate will be in Springfield again Tuesday, but there's still no budget deal for them to vote on.

Illinois' public university presidents warned in a letter of the "irreparable damage" being caused by having to wait more than three months for state money to come their way. Now, they're taking their case to the capitol. University leaders could have audiences with the governor, and legislative leaders.

Senate President John Cullerton's spokeswoman, Rikeesha Phelon, says Cullerton will set aside time to meet with them. She says otherwise Senate Democrats will spend most of the time meeting as a group "to talk about possible next steps that we can take, and if there are any next steps that we can take absent a budget resolution."

Democrats say it's time for Gov. Bruce Rauner to stop holding the budget hostage for unrelated demands. Rauner, a Republican, says Democrats are standing in the way of change. Phelon says the chamber has reached the point where there's not much floor action to take, until there's an agreement.

"The Senate's passed a number of legislative measures to address the budget crisis and those measures are pending in the House," Phelon said.

That includes a plan to reverse cuts to a child care program that benefits low-income, working parents. But House Democrats aren't likely to have the votes. They're down at least one after a member, Rep. Esther Golar of Chicago, died last month; her replacement is expected to be named Tuesday night -- in time for a legal, Wednesday deadline, but too late to be in Springfield for the one-day session.

Republicans have stood firm against reversing the child care cuts, saying Illinois doesn't have the money. Otherwise, the House is set to take a vote on whether Democratic State Rep. Frank Mautino of Spring Valley should be the state's next Auditor General, per the recommendation of a bipartisan committee.

A House committee is scheduled to debate Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's property tax plan. And another House committee plans to focus on why Governor Bruce Rauner's new state schools superintendent has been allowed to keep a pension perk.

Democrats are also scheduled to hold a hearing focused on how the lack of budget is hurting firefighter training, and they could inch forward a piecemeal budget plan, despite anticipated Republican pushback. Whatever happens, the expectation is most legislators will be back at home in time for the Cubs' game.

The session meeting comes after Illinois has received its first pension downgrade as a result of the gridlock. Fitch's has lowered Illinois to BBB+, with analysts writing that "the downgrade reflects the continued deterioration of the state's financial flexibility during its extended budget impasse.

Illinois's inability to balance its operations, eliminate accumulated liabilities, and grow reserves during a period of economic expansion leaves it far more vulnerable to the next economic downturn."

Amanda Vinicky moved to Chicago Tonight on WTTW-TV PBS in 2017.
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