Illinois State Leaders Finish Up Last Session Of The Year | WBEZ
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Illinois State Leaders Finish Up Last Session Of The Year

Illinois state legislators finished up their last session for the year Thursday night. But they made little progress during the brief session and the stakes of political inaction continue to rise. There’s still no agreement on a new state budget: Pension reform, freezing property taxes, and more than $200 million for Chicago Public Schools is in jeopardy. WBEZ’s state politics reporter Tony Arnold runs through some of the big issues.

The state will once again have no budget come January if nothing is done. Political leaders have been meeting all week. What do they have to show for it?

There's a lot of back and forth. It may seem basic but it's an accomplishment that the leaders are able to meet together in the same room. Otherwise, Republicans come out of these meetings and say Democrats are playing good cop, bad cop. And Democrats come out of these meetings saying Republicans are not talking about a budget.

What are the hang-ups?

The hang-ups are the same as they ever were.

Gov. Bruce Rauner says the state’s messed up. And the way to make it not-so-messed-up is to do two things. He put out a Facebook video saying two things would help: a property tax freeze (which also carries with it some things Democrats say are anti-union) and term limits for lawmakers, which is directly aimed at Democratic leaders he’s negotiating with. Rauner says if Democrats agree to those, then a budget picture would be better

Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan has been Rauner’s foil all along. And Madigan’s response is the budget should come first. In the past, he’s called Rauner’s agenda extreme and harmful to the middle class and he wouldn’t agree to them. So it looks like the state is headed for more budget impasse same thing we’ve seen for the last year and a half.

So did this year’s election really change nothing?

The election changed things in a few ways.

Republicans are already targeting a few suburban and downstate Democratic incumbents who won - sending a message that these people are on watch. One Democratic state representative was even videotaped as he walking through the parking lot on his way into the capitol this week. The video was posted on YouTube. 

Republicans are trying to pressure Democrats to split from their party’s leaders. We’ll see how successful they are with that.

But so far, Madigan’s political strategy hasn’t waivered at all, and he’s said this election was still a good year for Democrats even though they lost a couple seats in the House. And meantime, we’re hearing from all kinds of Democrats who want to take a crack at challenging Rauner in 2018. So it may seem early, but get ready for a competitive Democratic primary.

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