Jim Durkin

Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner was asked Tuesday whether he would support a shorter prison sentence for Rod Blagojevich.

President Trump told reporters last week he thought Blagojevich was “very unfairly treated” and was thinking about commuting the former governor's 14-year sentence.

Asked about that, Rauner did not take a position one way or the other.

Sam Dunklau / NPR Illinois

With time against them, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner and top leaders met again Tuesday morning to talk about adopting a budget before next month. But – there is some disagreement between leaders about just how helpful these meetings have been.

Republican leaders say they’d like for Democrats to speed up their negotiations and offer a revenue estimate. They say without one, budget negotiators are left in the dark about how much money there is to spend and can’t continue with helpful discussions.

State of Illinois

As the state works toward a budget for the next year, some lawmakers say they need a target for how much money is available.

Springfield’s top political leaders are continuing to meet in private as the clock runs down on Illinois’ budget year.

The House and Senate leaders — Democratic and Republican — went all year without sitting down together. That changed Sunday, and they've been meeting regularly since. They also have been coming out and holding news conferences to complain about each other — until yesterday, when they went quiet.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin gave a brief comment in the Statehouse rotunda.

Illinois Democrats took another step in budget negotiations Tuesday, proposing a spending plan for state government.

House Speaker Michael Madigan acknowledged it won’t meet every request of Gov. Bruce Rauner.

“But I think that it goes a long way toward giving the state of Illinois a good solid spending plan that responds to the real needs of the state," he said, "and, significantly, is below the level of the governor’s introduced budget."

Brian Mackey/NPR Illinois

Democrats and Republicans continue to negotiate in Springfield as Illinois approaches the end of two years without a budget. Both sides are narrowing their focus.

Republicans are emphasizing three issues: lowering the cost of workers’ compensation; cutting state pensions; and freezing property taxes.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said that, if Democrats try to water down changes in those areas, he’ll have a hard time winning support for a budget deal.

Brian Mackey/NPR Illinois

The top Democrats and Republicans of the Illinois General Assembly met Sunday for the first time this year, and there are some signs of progress.

House Speaker Michael Madigan has consistently objected to Gov. Bruce Rauner making his political and economic agenda a prerequisite for passing a budget. At Sunday's meeting, Madigan said Republicans were still talking about what he calls “off-budget” issues. That, he said, “prompted me to add items to the off-budget list.”

M. Spencer Green/AP

Tougher sentences for repeat gun offenders passed the Illinois House by a 70-41 vote Monday.

The bill says if you're convicted of a gun crime more than once, then you face up to 14 years in prison.

The measure, intended to help curb violence in Chicago, won approval after a contentious two-hour debate.

State of Illinois

By a vote of 10-3, an Illinois House committee has approved a controversial bill that would imprison repeat gun offenders for up to 14 years.

Opponents argue there’s no evidence the proposal would do anything to reduce gun violence.

With less than a week before the end of this year’s legislative session, Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson testified before the House Judiciary-Criminal Law Committee in a marathon hearing.

  While the historic 22-month Illinois budget impasse has dominated the legislative session in Springfield again, state lawmakers also have grappled with how to respond to Chicago’s gun violence. 

Illinois House leaders of both parties have introduced legislation to change the state’s public pension systems. But some constitutional lawyers say it has little chance of getting through the Illinois Supreme Court.

Republican House Minority Leader Jim Durkin and Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie are pushing a plan to effectively lower pension benefits for public employees by giving them a choice: agree to lower raises in retirement, or have your pension based on your salary today, no matter how much more money you make in the future.

House Minority Leader Jim Durkin says the tone in Springfield is deteriorating - and has been since the election.

He blames this on Democrats upset with his party picking up seats in the recent election.  

"For many years, Republicans have been pushed around," he says.  "We’ve been defeated, outspent - grossly outspent - for many, many years. Republicans gave them, them - the Democrats, a taste of their own medicine last November and I think that they’re still reeling over it."

Flickr user 401(K) 2012 / "Money" (CC v. 2.0)

Illinois’ top politicians are divided on how to end their feud over passing a full budget. 

Republicans are holding out for Governor Bruce Rauner’s agenda.  It includes changes to workers compensation and imposes term limits on lawmakers.

House Minority Leader Jim Durkin says Republicans will be happy to talk about balancing the budget if these measures are implemented. 

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner continues to demand legislators lower what businesses have to pay for injured workers.  

House Democrats scheduled a hearing on the subject Monday, and yet Rauner's fellow Republicans wanted nothing to do with it.

When is a company on the hook to compensate an injured worker, and for how much?

Legislation encapsulating Gov. Rauner's preferred plan has sat idle, for a year-and-a-half.

But after he recently asked Democratic leaders to take another look at his bill; the House obliged and scheduled a hearing on it.

Gov. Bruce Rauner and all four leaders of the Illinois General Assembly met Wednesday to discuss pending issues after Democrats weren't able to make a previous meeting.  

Among the conversation topics was the state budget.  The Illinois deficit currently exceeds $10 billion, and a report from the governor's budget office says it could reach $47 billion within five years.  

A stopgap spending plan is in place through December, but Illinois remains without a complete budget.

Democrats say Illinois needs to focus on identifying cuts and hiking taxes.

Illinois Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan is suggesting lawmakers work on another partial budget without any of Gov. Bruce Rauner's demands.

However GOP legislative leaders say they won't agree to another stopgap plan.

Madigan's comments Tuesday indicate the parties remain far apart in discussions about how to end a 16-month budget standoff that has crippled social service programs and higher education institutions.

Rauner wants Democrats to adopt business-friendly, union-weakening legislation as part of a budget agreement.

Jenna Dooley / WNIJ

Illinois legislators' fall veto session is getting underway, and already a bipartisan split is festering.

Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan said Sunday a conflict prevented him from accepting an invitation to meet with the governor Monday.

The Democratic Senate President said he would not attend either, because it would not be productive without all four legislative leaders.

GOP Governor Bruce Rauner and the General Assembly's minority leaders met anyway.

Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno called Democrats' absence disappointing.

Amanda Vinicky

Donald Trump is now the Republican nominee for President, after delegates in Cleveland awarded him their votes Tuesday night. For some Illinois Republicans, it’s a time for vindication and celebration. But others remain wary.

The real work of nominating a major party candidate for president is done in the caucuses and primaries that began what may seem like ages ago.

Actually, the Iowa caucuses were less than six months ago – in the blistering cold of early February.

state of Illinois

  Illinois lawmakers left Springfield a month ago fractured, indignant and without a budget. They'll return this morning for another try at a compromise.

Gov. Bruce Rauner and the legislature's four top leaders met fairly often toward the end of May, when they were supposed to have passed a new state budget.

But the meetings were short, often taking less than an hour. And the leaders comments after were often curt.

Compare that with Tuesday night, when leaders met for three hours.

Illinois Democrats say they will not pass Governor Bruce Rauner's last-minute pitch for a stopgap state budget, at least not Tuesday, the final day of the legislature's regular spring session.

Just days ago, Rauner's office nixed the idea of a temporary budget -- saying it'd kick the can down the road.

Now, he's had a "turnaround." He's pushing a plan to fund schools, finally pay what's owed to cash-starved social service agencies, and generally keep things running through the calendar year.

Governor Rauner's relentless push for a reduction in unions' power and Democrats' sustained refusal to go along has Illinois set to round out an eleventh month without a budget.

It's under this backdrop that the two parties are also tasked with crafting next fiscal year's budget.

Indications early this week were that it wasn't going well.

House Speaker Michael Madigan said following a meeting with Rauner on Wednesday that the governor and his "agents" were "unpersuasive" in making the case for Rauner's agenda before small "working" groups.

"20110420-RD-LSC-0369" By Flickr User U.S. Department of Agriculture / (CC X 2.0)

Mixed messages came out of a meeting Tuesday between the Illinois governor and legislative leaders. It was their first meeting in months, even as Illinois is in the midst of an unprecedented budget standoff.

Senate President John Cullerton, a Democrat, left the meeting saying he got what he wanted out of it.

"The main thing I wanted to accomplish was to make sure that in the revenue side ... that the governor was committed to being in favor of some revenue increases, and he said he was," Cullerton said.

state of Illinois

The Illinois House passed legislation Thursday to pay nearly $4 billion for higher education and social services -- but without new revenue to back it up. 

Democrats like House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, a Democrat from Chicago, cast the package as a compromise with Gov. Bruce Rauner. It allows him to avoid repaying money taken from special state funds, a notion Rauner has endorsed.

"It's not the best idea since sliced bread," Currie said, "but it is the governor's idea, and I'm willing to give him the courtesy of a yes vote."

Amanda Vinicky

Call him “House Minority Leader Durkin.” State Representative Jim Durkin was elected Thursday by his Republican colleagues as their new House leader.  

The new Republican leader is from the Cook County village of Western Springs. He’s an attorney and has served twice in the Illinois House: from 1994 to 2002, and from 2006 to today. In between, he ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate.