State Budget Deal Still In Limbo As Deadline Looms | WBEZ
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State Budget Deal Still In Limbo As Deadline Looms

Tuesday is supposed to be the final day Illinois state lawmakers are in Springfield until the Fall.

But Democrats and Republicans are still far apart on any sort of compromise. And that means the questions about what happens if the state continues to go without a budget are getting harder to answer. WBEZ’s Tony Arnold explains from Springfield.

This interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness.


LISA LABUZ, HOST: Governor Bruce Rauner and Democratic leaders have been negotiating for more than a year now and there’s still no state budget. Is that going to change by the end of today? Is there any hope of a compromise?

TONY ARNOLD: No. Yesterday House Speaker Michael Madigan said the House is going to be meeting all summer. And the way he was talking, it sounded a lot like where we were in 2015, when there was no state budget deal. And here we are 11 months later, and leaders are talking the same way as a year ago.

Well then what happens? Is the state of Illinois just going to keep going without a budget?

Rauner continues to say economic growth is the best thing for this state and his policies will do that. Democrats continue to say those policies are extreme, cause more damage than they help, and it’s more important to pass a budget, even if it’s unbalanced, than to pass those policies. “Hostage” is a word I’ve been hearing a lot lately from both parties.

Here’s how the top Democratic Senator - Senate President John Cullerton - framed Rauner’s positions.

CULLERTON: Hostage-taking is when you don’t pass an entire budget at all for two straight years in exchange for some nebulous business-friendly reforms.

And Cullerton’s Republican counterpart in the Senate - Christine Radogno. She says it’s the Democrats who are holding schools hostage, passing budgets with money that she doesn’t know where it’s coming from.

RADOGNO: They are willing to have schools not open, universities close, so that they can just wait this governor out and not have to make changes that their friends in organized labor and the trial lawyers don’t want to see.

So she’s saying state money for grade schools is in jeopardy?

Democrats approved a budget that increases money for school; Republicans say this is completely unaffordable and Democrats are trying to force a tax increase; Rauner has said he would veto the entire budget - which would include schools.

If you remember last year, the only budget everyone could agree on is sending money to Kindergarten-12th grade education.

We’re still waiting to see what the Senate does - if the Senate comes up with its own budget here in the final hours; or if a temporary, short-term budget comes up that is designed to only last a few months.

All of that means no matter where you live in the state - if you’re a student at Chicago Public Schools or a student in the suburbs - it means you’re school superintendent does not know how much state money, if any, it will be getting in the fall.

Well there was one other surprise yesterday, right? A few Republicans sided with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on a big piece of legislation concerning pensions for Chicago police officers and firefighters.

Three House Republicans bucked Governor Bruce Rauner and handed a big win to Emanuel. The House and Senate overrode a Rauner veto of a pension bill that Rauner said kicks the can down the road, puts off paying pensions where the city has to pay interest...but at the same time, Emanuel says the bill avoids a property tax hike. And the city just raised property taxes.

The three Republicans siding with Emanuel was a surprise, considering that the Republicans have all stuck together with Rauner in the past year on a ton of other big issues.

Tony Arnold is WBEZ's State Politics reporter. Follow his updates on Twitter @tonyjarnold.

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