Senate stopgap passes, but House version fails
By Mark Fitton
Illinois News Network
SPRINGFIELD — Illinois still has no budget.
The state Senate on Thursday passed a measure to provide about $2.2 billion for “essential services” for the month of July, but that bill apparently will not see action in the House until next week at the earliest.
With entirely Democratic support, Senate Bill 2040 passed on a vote of 37-0. Eleven Senators voted present and another 11 did not vote.
A similar bill failed when it came up four votes short of the necessary 71 in the House.
That does not necessarily mean House Democrats won’t be able to pass the Senate version, as the Democrats had four members absent on Wednesday.
With all Democrats in attendance, they could pass the Senate bill on to the governor — who does not support it — if each Democrat stays on board.
Thirty-six votes in the Senate and 71 in the House are also sufficient for a veto override.
Republicans led by Gov. Bruce Rauner and legislative Democrats have been unable this spring to reach a deal on a budget for fiscal year 2016, which began Wednesday.
As a result, a partial government shutdown is expected to begin this week and intensify if July continues to pass without an agreement.
The debates in the House and Senate on Thursday seemed like many others this session, but perhaps with some more force behind the punches.
Democrats tried to make the GOP wear the blame for letting services to some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens go unfunded. Those citizens include people with developmental disabilities, elderly needing care to stay in their homes, children whose state-supported day care lets their parents work, and more.
Democrats also argue Rauner-led Republicans have brought the budget process to a halt over what they consider non-budget demands: workers’ compensation and lawsuit reform, a property tax freeze, term limits and independent legislative redistricting.
Republicans, meanwhile, blasted Democrats for knowingly sending Rauner a roughly $36 billion spending plan that’s $3 billion to $4 billion out of balance. (Democrats peg it at about $3 billion; Republicans say it’s $4 billion.)
The GOP also accused Democrats of turning the session into political theater. The GOP contends the Democrats — should they truly wish to — have the number of votes to pass a tax increase and fund their budget and even override a veto.
But Republicans say Democrats lack the courage to do so because voters will remember it was Democrats who raised taxes.
State Sen. Iris Martinez D-Chicago, argues passionately for the one-month stopgap plan.
“I’m not going to tone it down, I’m going to turn up … for all the voiceless people in my community who don’t have the ability to come down here and fight for these programs that are so important,” Martinez said.
She cited a daycare center in her district that provides a place for children with HIV, which other centers won’t accept. She said it’s about to lose its funding.
“I can’t accept this and I will continue to fight this, loud and clear, for my constituents,” Martinez said.
GOP senators argued Democrats were up to what they have been for years and what’s led Illinois into a financial abyss: spending more than the state takes in and raising taxes after the fact.
And, they said, Democrats have refused to name an official revenue estimate in an effort to provide cover for a budget that fails to meet the state constitution’s requirement that the General Assembly send the governor a budget with spending revenue estimates in line.
“If we ignore the constitution … that’s actually how we got (this budget) and why we are having this conversation today,” said Sen. Tim Bivins, R-Dixon.
In the House, Rep. Ron Sandack, R-Downers Grove, said Democrats were trying to pass “one- twelfth of a $36 billion appropriation that’s out of balance. I don’t think that’s acting like grownups; I think that’s just more of the same.”
Democrats called the Republicans’ contention absurd and said it it had been “extrapolated” based on assumptions for which there was no evidence.
“If you want to vote no, vote no,” said House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, suggesting Republicans stop looking for reasons.
House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, had his own advice for Democrats.
“You have 71 votes,” he said. “I suggest you put them on the board today.”
The House is scheduled to meet July 8 and 9. The Senate is currently not scheduled to meet next week.