Nothing to show for on first day of special session

Jun 21, 2017

Illinois lawmakers returned to Springfield on Wednesday to begin the 10-day special session, but aside from some more finger-pointing, private caucus meetings and scheduling committee hearings, not much happened.

Members of the Illinois House were on the floor for less than ten minutes before adjourning until Thursday afternoon. Shortly before the chamber convened, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs told reporters during a press conference that ending the budget impasse is up to House Speaker Michael Madigan.

“Speaker Madigan and the House Democrats will need Republican votes if they want to end this impasse,” Durkin said, referring to the fact that the passage of a budget and any other legislation now needs a three-fifths supermajority, or 71 votes, rather than a simple majority.

“The time for just having vague, general discussions is over, and time for the committees of the whole, which we may see tomorrow, are over. We’re done with that. We’ve heard this time and time again over the past two years,” he said while noting there are no surprises in the “Capitol Compromise” budget package House and Senate Republicans unveiled last week.

Madigan, so far, has called for two committees of the whole hearings this week, with one scheduled tomorrow at 2 p.m. on workers’ compensation changes and another at the same time on Friday regarding the governor’s four-year property tax freeze proposal.

“The governor and his allies are determined to institute changes to workers’ compensation, but they have no desire to hear from the middle-class workers who will actually be impacted by their changes. No one plans to be injured on the job, but every day workers are seriously hurt or even permanently disabled on the job through no fault of their own.” Madigan said in a statement. “Democrats have put legislation on the governor’s desk that will help employers cope with workers’ compensation insurance costs, without hurting middle-class families. As the governor insists on further changes, 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.”

Speaking to reporters following his party’s caucus, Madigan said House Democrats are “fully prepared to engage with anyone” who is willing to solve the budget stalemate. He added that his budget team, led by state Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, is working on a spending plan that’s “not too far apart” from the $36 billion spending proposal in the Republicans’ “compromise” budget package. Senate Democrats passed a $37.3 billion spending plan before the end of the spring session in May.

If state lawmakers fail to reach a budget agreement by the start of the new fiscal year that begins July 1, the consequences will be far-reaching, from further credit rating downgrades that will bring the state into junk bond territory, to the possibility of schools not opening in the fall and a suspension of all infrastructure projects by the Illinois Department of Transportation, to name a few.

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