No Budget For Illinois But House Advances Spending Plan; Negotiations Continue
Illinois will enter its third straight fiscal year without a budget plan in place.
The state House of Representatives adjourned its Friday special session, falling short of a solution to the state budget impasse before a midnight deadline. But they’re due back Saturday.
In a sign that negotiations are progressing, Republicans and Democrats advanced a measure that could serve as the spending plan for a budget, if a deal is reached.
The House voted 90-25 late Friday morning on a version of a yearlong spending plan. All of the Democrats and 23 Republicans voted in favor of the proposal, which is an amendment to Senate Bill 6, which was passed May 23 by the Illinois Senate.
The House took no action before the end of the spring session on May 31. The plan will need another vote for final House approval.
Negotiations on the budget continued Friday afternoon behind closed doors around the Capitol.
The budget vote was scheduled after a week’s worth of negotiations on both spending and Gov. Bruce Rauner’s political and economic agenda.
“We’re going to put it up for a vote,” chief Democratic budget negotiator Rep. Greg Harris said Thursday, "because we know that, on July 1 in the state of Illinois, we’re going to peering into the darkness if we do not have a budget. So this will be a moment of truth."
Exhortations came from the other side of the aisle as well.
“I know the people in this room are here to do the right thing,” said Rep. Steve Andersson, R-Geneva, “and I know today we’re going to do the right thing. We’re going to save our state, and we’re going to save our state together.”
House Speaker Michael Madigan acknowledged that lawmakers would miss the deadline for passing a budget before the new fiscal year begins, but he says lawmakers will continue working Saturday.
“This is a good start," said House Minority Leader Jim Durkin. “We are close. We are so close, I can taste it.”
Republicans say they supported the Democratic spending plan as a show of good faith, but it was just a procedural vote.
Significant differences remain, on both budget matters and the governor’s economic and political agenda.
Missing the midnight deadline means an almost certain downgrade in the creditworthiness of Illinois bonds to “junk'' status. Madigan says he's sending messages asking the major bond-rating houses to give Illinois more time to secure a deal before a downgrade.
The proposed budget relies on more than $2 billion in spending cuts and a probable increase in the income tax to raise $5 billion. Late Thursday night, House Democrats introduced a new bill that would raise the state's individual income tax rate to 4.95 percent to help pay for it.
State Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, says the House did not send over a plan on how to finance the budget, and the legislature may have to resort to a last-ditch plan to cover the gap.
“It’s not pleasant. It’s not fun," he said, "but the temporary tax is going to have to go back on. But we can’t ask the voters to pay for more until we have done everything we can to make sure that cuts have been made and we have a responsible budget that we can go to the voters and say, ‘We’ve done all this first. And now we need your help to get us across the finish line.’”
State Representative Litesa Wallace, D-Rockford, said she believes that, after all of this time without a budget, today's vote is "...a small ray of hope. We are going to need everyone --downstate, upstate, Chicago, Cairo -- to implore their representatives to support step two in this balanced budget. But we had a great success in passing the first bill."
Madigan continues to blame Rauner for insisting that his own political agenda be a part of a budget solution.
“Here we are, the gentleman has persisted,” Madigan said. “He’s brought all these issues before the legislature. I think I’ve moved considerably to engage on all of these issues, and I will continue to engage on all of these issues. I don’t see that I’m being unreasonable. I’m here.”
If the spending bill and tax increases fail to pass, Democrats have a backup plan to vote on a series of emergency spending bills. The problem is that, without higher tax revenue, Illinois won’t have enough money to make good on those commitments.
Among the 22 State Representatives from the WNIJ listening area, 10 voted in favor of the plan, 11 voted against, and 1 was absent. All of the area legislators voting “No” are Republicans. All four of the area Democrats voted “Yea,” joined by 6 Republicans.
Here is how they voted:
Democrats In Favor: Litesa Wallace of Rockford, Michael Halpin of Rock Island, Anna Moeller of Elgin, and Fred Crespo of Streamwood
Republicans In Favor: Mike Fortner of West Chicago, Steven Andersson of Geneva, John Cabello of Machesney Park, Bob Pritchard of Hinckley, David Welter of Morris, Brian Stewart of Freeport
Republicans Opposed: Keith Wheeler of North Aurora, Nick Sauer of Libertyville, David McSweeney of Cary, Steven Reick of Woodstock, Barbara Wheweler and Allen Skillicorn of Crystal Lake, Tony McCombie of Savanna, Ryan Spain of Peoria, Daniel Swanson of Woodhull, Jerry Long of Streator, Tom Demmer of Dixon.
- The Associated Press and Illinois Public Radio reporters contributed to this story.