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Illinois House Democrats Advance Spending Plan While Veto Looms

In a vote that showed there’s no end in sight to the political impasse at the Illinois state capitol, House Democrats late last night approved a budget for the next year, while Republicans aggressively rejected the spending plan for being way out of balance. They even ended the night booing a few Democrats in the halls of the capitol.

State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago) argued in favor of the spending plan, saying she wants the insurance of having a budget passed rather than continue the impasse.

“I don’t think we can afford to count on compromise,” Currie said, right after saying she’s optimistic a deal could still be within reach. “It didn’t work in the current fiscal year and there’s no guarantee it will in the next.”

But House minority leader Jim Durkin (R-Burr Ridge) said the Democrats’ plan overspends what the state is scheduled to bring in by $7 billion.

“This is absolutely the biggest joke that I’ve witnessed in my 18 years in Springfield,” Durkin said.

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration says if the Senate approves this budget, it will be vetoed. Although it’s not yet clear if Rauner would veto the entire spending plan, or portions of it. Last year, Rauner vetoed a full state budget, but signed off on a spending plan for the state’s schools.

The plan approved Wednesday calls for a large increase in state spending on education, including an added $100 million in state money for Chicago Public Schools’ underfunded retirement system. The state’s largest school system owes nearly $700 million to its pension fund in the next few weeks, and has been lobbying state lawmakers for a school funding system that CPS administrators say would be more equitable for a district with a high number of students living in poverty.

“We stand strongly behind the efforts of the Illinois General Assembly -- particularly the Chicago delegation -- to bring additional resources to public schools,” Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool said in a statement after the vote.

Not included in the spending plan were amounts related to court orders and consent decrees that have kept much of the state government operating for much of the past 11 months without a budget. Judges have mandated the state pay Medicaid reimbursements, the state’s child welfare agency and state employees’ salaries while there’s been no budget. Rep. Currie said it’s not clear how much the state will owe in those cases as they continue.

House Republicans cried foul with the way Democrats conducted the vote, ignoring procedural requests from individual GOP representatives. As Republicans gathered to address reporters in the hall, they booed two Democratic lawmakers who were walking by.

“This sets a terrible tone for the parties to try to accomplish something in a meaningful, collaborative, professional manner,” GOP leader Durkin said.

Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics. Follow him @tonyjarnold.



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