Springfield Reporter: Call It A Partial Shutdown

Jul 24, 2015

Amanda Vinicky, statehouse bureau chief for Illinois Public Radio

Hopes for ending the budget stalemate faded even further this week when Gov. Bruce Rauner's office interrupted a news conference called by Senate President John Cullerton.

Cullerton, a Democrat, began by telling reporters that Rauner's budget was unbalanced when it was introduced. But then Cullerton appeared to offer an olive branch, according to Illinois Public Radio's Amanda Vinicky. In front of reporters, he asked the Governor to start over on the budget.

"Then the Governor's office sent a press release which popped up in reporters' in-boxes with enough time for them to ask Cullerton about it," Vinicky said.

According to Vinicky, the email read:

"President Cullerton made clear his view of a balanced budget makes no spending reforms, no pension reform, and only raises taxes. We urge Cullerton to work with us to pass meaningful structural reforms."

For his part, Cullerton denied he wanted to raise taxes, but the email "changed the tone" between Rauner and Cullerton. Only a week earlier, Cullerton tried to pass a property tax freeze -- one of several conditions Rauner demanded before agreeing to talk about raising revenue.

The measure failed with every GOP senator voting against it. Republicans said it ignored another key demand of the Governor's, which was rolling back protections for unions.

Meanwhile, Illinois government is nearing a full month without a budget for Fiscal Year 2016.

Vinicky says the state can continue to pay government worker salaries "for now" through taxes and fees, and state universities can rely on tuition. But for the most vulnerable citizens, she says the government is in a "partial shutdown."

This includes working parents who depend on subsidized daycare for their children.

For this group in particular, Vinicky warns, more cuts are on the way: "The Rauner administration is seeking to cut back eligibility for that program. A lot."

Vinicky says rank-and-file lawmakers from both parties are growing frustrated as they hear from constituents, many of whom depend on state services.

"They say the leaders and the Governor should be meeting more often," Vinicky says. "But Cullerton says the meetings haven't been fruitful, and that the Governor basically says things that you get in press releases from his office."