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Can Illinois Lawmakers Get Together To Resolve Budget Impasse?

Just over two weeks remain in the Illinois General Assembly’s spring legislative session. Lawmakers haven’t passed a full budget in more than two years.

And there are serious doubts about whether they’ll extend or break the streak before the session is scheduled to end May 31.

That would mean Democrats satisfying Gov. Bruce Rauner’s business and political agenda and Republicans agreeing on a series of tax hikes to begin stabilizing state finances.

There was a blow-up last week, when Democrats said it was time to move on the so-called grand bargain. Republicans refused to go along, saying they ought to keep negotiating.

Did that spell the end of hope for a deal?

"I think one of the biggest dangers in this business is overplaying things that happen," said Sen. Dale Righter of Mattoon, one of the Republican Party’s top budget negotiators. “We are focused on getting an agreement on a budget that has cuts in it, that is balanced, that has reforms.”

He says both sides continue to meet on that -- and Rauner's economic agenda.

Righter's Democratic counterpart, Sen. Heather Steans of Chicago, says they’re getting really close -- on the budget.

“I’m remaining really optimistic that we’re actually going to get some Republicans to 'yes,' and that’s certainly my hope," she said. “I think the question ultimately is going to be: Can the governor get to ‘yes’ on the non-budget items?”

Democrats last week said they’d made all the concessions they possibly could. But, as they said, they're still negotiating.

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
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