Illinois Governor Calls Special Session to Force Budget Deal

By SOPHIA TAREEN - Associated Press and ALEX DEGMAN - KMOX News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (KMOX/AP) – Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has called state legislators to a 10-day special session starting next week to hammer out a budget deal and end an unprecedented impasse that could soon enter a third year.

The Republican announced the news Thursday in a Facebook video and statement, accusing majority Democrats of “ignoring” his recommendations.

“We have tough, urgent choices to make, and the Legislature must be present to make them,” he said.

Lawmakers adjourned last month without a deal before a critical May 31 deadline, triggering the need for a three-fifths majority vote instead of a majority on a budget agreement. The new fiscal year begins July 1. Rauner has called for a special session running from June 21 to July 30.

“Where’s he been,” asks Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) in an interview with KMOX, noting his chamber passed a budget before the May 31 adjournment date and sent it to the House. That was after Senate Democrats worked with Senate Republicans for months on a so-called “Grand Bargain” compromise, only to see Republicans pull support for the bill when it was about to come up for a vote.

“All of the stuff he needs, a balanced budget, the revenue, the reforms, are all over in the House or on his desk. Maybe the House needs a special session,” Cullerton says.

Cullerton says Senate Democrats based their plan on the governor’s framework — keeping the spending level where he wanted it plus including separate reforms, including a two-year property tax freeze and workers compensation reform. The governor has recently called such bills authored and passed by Democrats as “shams.”

A GOP budget proposal floated this week would still hike the personal income tax, but only temporarily for four years — and only if its tied to a four-year property tax freeze, Rauner has shunned a two-year plan.

“We have a spending level that’s exactly the amount the governor asked for, and exactly the amount of revenues that he says needed to balance it. That’s a really good starting point,” Cullerton says. “I would urge the House Democrats to consider the budget we passed. And then on reforms — when is the governor going to say that 90 percent is enough?”

Cullerton is referring to a story published late last week in the State Journal-Register in Springfield which quoted Rauner’s Education Secretary, Beth Purvis, as saying the governor likes 90 percent of the school funding reform package passed by Democrats — but he’d veto it anyway. Republicans and conservative think tanks have railed against the proposal, calling it a bailout for Chicago Public Schools.

Cullerton says Rauner has been incredibly difficult to work with.

Pressure has been mounting to get a budget deal done.

Related story: Lottery May Dump Illinois Unless the State Agrees a Budget

Credit ratings agencies have threatened further downgrades without a state spending plan, unpaid bills are piling up and on Thursday Illinois Lottery officials said the state might get dropped from Powerball and Mega Millions games.

Illinois hasn’t had a budget since 2015 when Rauner first took office. He has called for pro-business reforms such as workers compensation changes, along with a budget, saying longer term reforms will help dig Illinois out of a financial mess. Democrats say his proposal would hurt the middle class and have nothing to do with the state budget.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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