SPRINGFIELD – With time counting down to the end of the state’s budget year, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton urged the governor to use the coming days to reach an agreement. The following comment is in response to the governor already talking about ordering more Special Sessions beyond Friday, June 30 and can be attributed to John Patterson, spokesman for Illinois Senate President John Cullerton:
“It’s Wednesday. Now is not the time for the governor to give up. Now is the time to find agreement. People are counting on us. Jobs, schools, vital services all hang in the balance. The avenue to success is there. We would hope that the governor would finally show the willingness to end this impasse and end the chaos.”
Senate plan being used as framework
SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Senate President John Cullerton expressed continued optimism that a state budget deal can be reached before the end of the week and prevent Illinois from going another year without a budget.
The Illinois House has begun amending the balanced budget plans the Senate previously approved, and legislative leaders met again Tuesday to try to hammer out a compromise.
“You should know the Senate passed a budget and we have been reconciling that with the House,” Cullerton told reporters after the leaders meeting. “It’s a byproduct of a lot of bipartisan work, and I think it looks like we should have a very good agreement on it.”
The state’s fiscal year runs out on June 30. Illinois has gone two years under Gov. Bruce Rauner without a budget. The Senate approved a balanced budget last month that matches the spending limits the governor proposed. That plan is now pending in the Illinois House.
SPRINGFIELD – Emerging from the first legislative leaders meeting in months, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton said his fellow leaders recognize the urgency of reaching a budget deal and that Sunday’s meeting should fuel new optimism that it will happen soon.
Asked by reporters if the people of Illinois should be more or less optimistic after the meeting, the Senate President replied: “I would say more.”
When asked why he felt that way, he said, “Because we couldn’t even get a meeting a couple days ago.”
Indeed, Sunday’s afternoon's meeting of the Republican and Democratic leaders from the Senate and House was the first of its kind this year.
Governor Bruce Rauner pulled the plug on budget meetings with the legislative leaders back in December, arguing that he didn’t think Democrats were serious about a budget deal.
Just weeks later, the Senate leaders unveiled a sweeping set of financial and governmental reforms dubbed the Grand Bargain in an effort to shake loose a state budget after a nearly two-year impasse. The Senate Democrats went on to pass a balanced budget plan. Even the House Republican leader has acknowledged that the Senate has “done their work.”
Senate President Cullerton told reporters Sunday that the meeting was civil and he would be briefing Senate Democrats on developments in advance of another leaders meeting being scheduled.
Asked if the governor would attend future leaders meetings, Cullerton said: “That’s up to the governor. He’s the one that calls those meetings.”
The Senate President again noted that the Illinois Senate had already approved all the issues the governor cited in convening Special Sessions of the General Assembly.
SPRINGFIELD — With time running out on lawmakers’ spring session, Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton attempted to jumpstart bipartisan budget action only to have Governor Rauner and Republicans block progress.
Cullerton’s efforts come as the General Assembly draws ever closer to a May 31 deadline on a budget and Gov. Bruce Rauner risks entering a third straight budget year with no state budget and a mountain of unpaid bills that recently topped $13 billion.
Rauner pulled the plug on budget talks last December even as an emergency deal was about to expire. There has been no state spending plan in place since January 1. Senate leaders stepped in to fill the leadership void and began piecing together a sweeping reform and financial plan intended to end the impasse and stabilize the state’s economy.
Initially, the Senate made great progress.
Nearly half of the deal — including key provisions for reducing government, opening up economic development opportunities and cutting bureaucratic red tape — won approval at the end of February. But with the rest of the deal positioned for success on March 1, word came down that Rauner was pulling nearly all the Republican support off the plan. Without those votes, the plan, which was put together by Republicans and Democrats, couldn’t advance.
While there had been numerous meetings and claims of progress over the ensuing months, nothing had been voted on since the end of February. Cullerton decided last week that the Senate had waited long enough and it was time for action.
“Every day there’s not a budget, the state spends itself another $11 million into debt. March 1 was 71 days ago. It is now May 10. After today, there are 20 days left before our scheduled adjournment on May 31,” the Senate President told the Senate. “I don’t think we can wait any longer. I believe the public’s patience is wearing thin. One way or another, it’s time to vote.”
The Senate did approve a provision to give local government greater flexibility in borrowing, something that should result in lower interest rates on financing and result in local taxpayer savings.
But efforts to vote on and advance reforms to the state benefit system for injured workers and a local property tax freeze stalled because Republicans refused to let the Senate vote on the plans. Republican senators said they needed more time to tinker with the provisions before they would consider voting.
Cullerton said the Senate will keep working and urged lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to realize time is running out, recognize the opportunity for compromise and seize it to help save the state’s economy.
You can watch the Senate President answer reporters’ questions here: