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WNIJ's summary of news items around our state.

Illinois Budget Breakthrough? Not Tuesday

Brian Mackey
Illinois Public Radio

A one-day session Tuesday yielded no budget breakthroughs for Illinois lawmakers. The state's been without a spending plan for what'll soon be five months.

It was the first time legislators had been at the capitol since last month, but neither sides' position appeared to move since then.

Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, describes the GOP's united stand with Gov. Bruce Rauner as "the concept that we can't continue to do the same types of budgets we've done in previous years and expert there to be different results, and that any kind of budget solution should include some kind of structural reforms for the state."

But Democrats, who control the legislature, say those "structural reforms" are unreasonable, and unrelated to the budget.

"I was elected by people in my district to work for the state government. The governor was elected to work for the state government," House Speaker Michael Madigan said. "We ought to focus on state government problems like the budget deficit and work to solve that problem with a balanced approach; some cuts, some new revenue."

Madigan says a recent credit downgrade proves that position.

The Speaker says he's met with Rauner several times recently in meetings described as "cordial."

"The circumstances here are different than we've seen in the past. I think we can all agree upon that,” Madigan said. “Therefore, the ultimate solution may be different than in the past.”

A couple of piecemeal budget measures inched forward Tuesday; but those were also subject to partisan divides. With only Democratic support, a House committee approved a plan to spend nearly $2 billion.

It would allow the Lottery to once again pay winners. It would also get local governments money for road projects and fund 911 call centers.

Democrats say it's releasing only "pass-through" money that's not from the state's main checking account, but Republicans won't go for a piecemeal approach.

Rauner and legislators weren't alone in the capitol Tuesday; advocates for a child care program that's been cut, university students, and providers of mental health and homeless services were at the statehouse to lobby for funding.

Brian Kim was sprinting through the capitol, up and down the marble stair cases, wearing a backpack and a bright orange tee-shirt with the big block I on the front. He's a senior at the University of Illinois in Urbana, majoring in political science and psychology.

But despite his enthusiasm, Kim knows the lawmakers might not budge.

"When we were going through the tunnel, we were just having a talk, and trying to get the representative, and we don't know if it was the representative or some statehouse worker, but he said 'They're not gonna listen,'” Kim said.

Lexi McGargill, another U of I student, was also with Kim.

"That was, it was awkward,” McGargill said. “ … that's a little bit discouraging. But you know, I think we're going to try our hardest."

Even if the General Assembly and the Governor come to terms on a budget, the Governor has proposed the schools take a 30 percent cut.

Lawmakers are scheduled to return to Springfield Nov. 10.

  • Amanda Vinicky and Dusty Rhodes contributed to this report.
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