GOP lawmakers unveil ‘compromise’ package to end budget impasse

Jun 14, 2017

With just eighteen days left until Illinois begins its third straight fiscal year without a budget, Republican lawmakers on Wednesday presented a “compromise” package containing a number of reforms they say Gov. Bruce Rauner will approve to finally end the Springfield logjam.

Speaking at a press conference in Chicago, a group of House and Senate Republicans said they’d be able to stomach tax hikes passed by Senate Democrats last month if their own budget package, which is comprised of seven bills, gets approved by the Legislature.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs called out his colleagues on the other side of the aisle for holding subject matter hearings and using “human shields” to distract from their “economic failures this past decade.”

“Lawmakers should be in Springfield working around the clock until our job is finished. This comprehensive budget package with structural reforms that we are proposing today is the path forward to breaking the budget impasse,” Durkin said.

While Senate Democrats last month passed a budget along with versions of reforms demanded by Rauner, it never was called to a vote in the House before the end of the spring legislative session on May 31.

The seven bills in the GOP budget package both makes some changes to those reforms and includes other measures not considered by Senate Democrats, such as a four-year property tax freeze.

State Sen. Karen McConnaughay, R-St. Charles, said her party’s proposals are meant to jumpstart the “grand bargain” budget negotiations that stalled in the Senate during the final weeks of the spring session.

“These proposals continue the important work already done in the Senate, where we’d seen significant progress on these issues. I am confident there is still an opportunity for bipartisan compromise on a balanced budget, as well as the critical reforms that will bring a much-needed economic boost to our state, McConnaughay said. “We need to act expediently to get Illinois back on a path to fiscal stability and security.”

Here’s a summary of those bills, according to a press release from Senate Republicans (see the full analysis here).

  • Budget Bill: Comprehensive budget proposal that includes real spending cuts and a four-year spending cap, while providing funding to state agencies like the Department of Human Services to care for our state’s most vulnerable and the Department of Transportation to continue important infrastructure projects.
  • Property Tax Relief: Four-year freeze for all taxing districts, but would allow residents, through voter referendum, to lower or increase their taxes. Allows for an exemption on existing debt service payments as requested by Senate Democrats.
  • Local Government Consolidation: Strengthens and improves the already passed SB 3, and will allow for citizens-initiated consolidation on units of local government.
  • Education Funding: Changes to the K-12 education funding formula that treats every district equitably that is consistent with the bipartisan framework of the Governor’s School Funding Commission. Funding for early childhood education, K-12 education, community colleges and universities.
  • Workers’ Comp: Uses previously negotiated language between Senate GOP and Senate Democrats, like changes to the medical fee schedule, but does not reduce benefits to workers or include a causation standard.
  • Pension Reform: Accepts SB 16, which has previously passed the Senate, including President Cullerton’s consideration model and the state’s pickup of Chicago Public School’s pension payments.
  • Term Limits: Constitutional amendment to impose 10-year term limits on legislative leaders in the General Assembly and eight-year limit on Constitutional Officers (Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Comptroller, Treasurer, and Secretary of State)

Democrats, however, are skeptical of Republicans’ calls for compromise and the package itself.

From Crain’s Chicago Business columnist Greg Hinz:

Democratic reaction was not promising.

Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, Madigan’s point person on budget items, was restrained.

“I’m glad they did it. I’m glad they just laid out their position,” he told me.

But without review, the plan at first glance seems to be based mostly on old proposals, Harris added. “There are some things in there that Democrats and Republicans could support. There are some things that our caucus has not supported in the past. The devil’s in the details. It will take some time (to review.)

Somewhat more negative was Madigan spokesman Steve Brown: “Most of these ideas have been considered by the House in the past. I’m not sure whether any of it is a compromise.”

Neither Brown nor Harris would say when the House might vote on a budget, either the one that’s already cleared the Senate or one of their own.

Cullerton’s office released a statement emphasizing that the Senate already adopted a budget plan based in part on Rauner’s numbers. “A Republican-only, mid-June press conference doesn’t exactly scream bipartisan compromise,” Cullerton said in a statement. “If Republicans now think they can improve on their governor’s budget, we look forward to seeing their plans.”


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