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Illinois House Leader Jim Durkin On What’s Next For The State Budget, Partial Funding For Universities

Illinois Democrats and Republicans recently agreed to form a group to discuss state budget ideas. That may seem small, but State Rep. Jim Durkin - the top House Republican - says it’s not. 

WBEZ’s Tony Arnold talked to Durkin about the working group and collaboration in Springfield. Here are some highlights from that conversation: 

On the last minute partial budget that saved Chicago State University from closing its doors last Friday

“Chicago State had the most immediate concern and I think that that is why we were able to get the final product that did not have all these add-ons that the Speaker hoped to put on the bill.”

Durkin added that a “Christmas tree type bill” would have had a higher chance of being vetoed. 

“The likelihood of Chicago State closing their doors played heavily into this decision,” he said. “House Democrats were not going to play games and were going to stick to the original deal.”

On Illinois Democrats and Republicans working together

“We finally agreed on something. Which is rare. It’s been over a year where we’ve walked into a small meeting room and walked out with an agreement on some things. So I felt that the door was open a little bit for us to accomplish something before the end of May.

We put together a working group to discuss the budget. We have a set time frame for them to return back and give us their thoughts. And to me, that is the first sign of good will that I’ve seen from the other side of the aisle in some time.”

On whether there’s enough time to come to an agreement before the next fiscal year

“It really comes down to the will of the Democratic leadership in both chambers and their members, if they want to cooperate with the Governor and the Republicans on crafting a balanced budget--one which accommodates their needs and also one which accommodates our needs. I think that’s very reasonable.

If they choose not to work with us on what we believe is important, then we’ll recommend to them just to pass the budget on their own, at the peril of the voters of Illinois.”

Listen to the full interview above.

Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold.

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