SPRINGFIELD, ILL. (AP/KMOX) – Illinois lawmakers are back in Springfield today to start a 10-day special session the governor hopes results in a budget agreement.
He addressed the media in a live address from the Old State Capitol Tuesday night to reiterate much of what he’s been saying since taking office.
“Right now our state is in real crisis, and the actions we take in the days ahead will determine how history remembers us. We can all do better,” he says.
Democrats and Republicans used news conferences and floor speeches to say they were ready to compromise and blame the other party for the gridlock that could stretch into a third year if lawmakers don’t approve a budget by July 1.
Republicans touted their own budget, which caps spending at $36 billion and includes reforms GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner wants such as term limits and government consolidation, along with a temporary income tax increase. But House Republican Leader Jim Durkin brushed aside questions raised by House Democrats.
“When Democrats claim that our budget isn’t balanced, it means we’re doing our job,” Durkin told reporters. “Because they couldn’t balance their way out of a wet paper bag and they haven’t for their time down here.”
Rauner says he supports a compromise budget put forth by Republicans that, they say, improved upon the work Senate Democrats started with *their* budget proposal.
Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan told reporters his chamber was ready to answer the governor’s special session call, and work on a budget with anyone who wanted to compromise. But he later issued a statement saying his chamber would spend the next two days hearing testimony about how some of the governor’s proposed reforms would hurt the middle class, including workers’ compensation and a property tax freeze. A House committee heard tearful testimony Wednesday from nonprofits who help domestic violence victims.
“We owe it to the people directly affected by these changes to give them a seat at the table and a voice in the discussion, not just to hear from the corporate CEOs whispering in Governor Rauner’s ear,” Madigan said in a statement.
Senate Democrats have approved a $37.3 billion spending plan that includes cuts and an income tax increase, and are pushing it as a compromise option.
Still, no one seemed to budge Wednesday in the budget fight that began in in 2015 when Rauner took office. He wants pro-business reforms in conjunction with a budget that relies on a tax increase. Democrats have argued that they’ve taken up several ideas, but Republicans keep changing their demands. Republicans say Democrats water down their proposals.
They’re spending the day in private meetings and holding hearings. Durkin said, as he did last week, that they’ve worked out a budget the governor will sign.
“All of the provisions that we’ve included in this compromise, have been thoroughly vetted and discussed through the working groups who’ve been working for the past two and a half years,” Durkin said. “There are no surprises in what we have offered.”
Durkin reminds Democrats that, because they’re in overtime, more votes are needed to pass anything and they need Republican support.
Bipartisan meetings between key leaders have also been sparse. Rauner and Madigan met privately in April, their first since December when all four legislative leaders sat down with the governor. Senate President John Cullerton and Rauner met a few times last month.
The special session is also expensive, with a single day costing roughly $48,000.
The Secretary of the Senate’s office provided an estimate, accounting for $111 daily per diem and 39 cents per mile for 177 members of the General Assembly, along with paying staff needed when lawmakers are at the Capitol. Actual costs may be lower, with not all lawmakers in attendance each day, some forgoing the per diem payments and lawmakers typically getting a roundtrip mileage once a week.
Rauner had previously considered special sessions a waste of time and money, but said it’s urgent this year.
“Failure to act is not an option,” Rauner said in speech on the eve of the special session. “Failure to act may cause permanent damage to our state that will take years to overcome.”
The state’s fiscal year ends June 30th.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)