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WNIJ's summary of news items around our state.

Illinois Democrats Upset Over Veto, Potential State Government Shutdown


Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s rejection of a spending plan gives Illinois lawmakers just five days to find an agreement -- and avoid a government shutdown.

But an event on Chicago’s West Side shed some light into just how far apart things remain between Rauner and Democratic legislators.

You’ve probably heard about the increasing tensions between Rauner and Democrats. And in that time, the voice and tone of Rauner’s opposition maybe hasn’t been all that dramatic.

“The governor’s advocacy of non-budget issues works against the core beliefs of both Democrats and Republicans,” Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan told reporters earlier this week.

For months now, Madigan has been saying he’s working with Rauner -- even as the two sides have been inching toward the very dramatic possibility of a government shutdown.

And the tone got a serious injection of adrenaline Thursday, when a group of African-American lawmakers organized a rally on Chicago’s West Side.

Attendees addressed state funding of autism programs, energy assistance for the poor, and mental health services. Some of those groups receive state money and stand to lose at least some of it.

After an hour and a half, State Sen. Kimberly Lightford of Maywood-- a member of the Democratic leadership -- stepped outside to talk to reporters.

“I just learned a moment ago that he vetoed the full budget,” Lightford said.

And this is where the rhetoric started to match the stakes of those tensions you’ve been hearing about.

“You can’t just bring your whole campaign agenda in year one and pit it against the budget and say, ‘Either you give me what I want or not,’” Lightford said. “The campaign is over. People are hurting. It’s time to govern.”

Lightford’s point is that the governor’s negotiating tactic hasn’t been to build relationships with lawmakers that he has to work with but to break them. But, after she finished with reporters, Lightford still had to break the news to the rally in the other room.

When Lightford entered, tears streaming down her face, the crowd moved in tighter.

“Don’t confuse my tears as signs of weakness,” Lightford said. “I’m mad as hell and I want to fight. “

And that’s when Lightford got more personal in her comments, referring to Rauner’s personal wealth, as the crowd looked for somewhere to direct this anger.

“We’re gonna have to march on this governor like nothing before,” Lightford said. “And I think we need the elders in this room to show us how to do it. You did it in the ‘50s, you did it in the ‘60s, we need you to do it in 2015. We need help today.”

For his part, Rauner wrote an article published in the Chicago Tribune, saying he vetoed the budget because the budget wasn’t balanced. He still wants to change workers compensation benefits and approve term limits before a spending plan is approved.

Madigan responded with a written statement from his spokesman, saying the wheels are in motion for hearing from government officials about how they’re preparing for a shut down.

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