State: Talks restart with no hint of compromise

By Mark Fitton
Illinois News Network

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois’ governor and four legislative leaders are at least talking about talking again.

And that seemed to be one of the few positive takeaways from their much-publicized Tuesday meeting in Springfield.

Gov. Bruce Rauner and the four leaders of the General Assembly met for a little less than an hour in public and about the same time in private.

Afterward, they said they’d meet again soon — perhaps next week and perhaps with supporting staff.

Additionally, the legislative leaders said they and the governor have at least gotten started on a deal to get some non-general fund money flowing, including motor fuel taxes for local governments’ use.

But the dug-in positions that have produced Illinois current budget impasse appeared largely unchanged.

For instance, Gov. Bruce Rauner again advocated term limits and legislative redistricting reform, saying gerrymandering and the protection of incumbents remains the norm in Illinois.

“Our politicians pick the voters, our voters don’t pick the politicians,” Rauner, R-Winnetka, said in his public remarks before the private meeting.

House Speaker Michael Madigan hardly agreed.

“Term limits and redistricting are Republican campaign issues for November 2016” and shouldn’t be preconditions for a state budget, the speaker said.

The Republican leaders from the House and Senate said what they’d been saying since the spring: No new revenues or tax increases without reforms.

Sen. Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, and Rep. Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs also said they continue to stand with Rauner when it comes to the need for a property tax freeze coupled with giving local governments flexibility on collective bargaining, prevailing wage and outsourcing.

“I think the governor has made it very clear what he’s looking for,” said Durkin. “Nothing’s changed, and that’s not going to change, either.”

Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said he was encouraged by the meeting and remains ready to negotiate.

But he also took a shot or two at Rauner’s leadership style, saying they governor should have summoned the leaders sooner and more frequently, and he implied Rauner needs to step up when it comes to the budget.

“The budget is our (the Legislature’s) problem and he’s just the governor?” That doesn’t make sense,” Cullerton said.

While Radogno said she remains ready to negotiate, she didn’t see much change on Tuesday.

“When it comes to actual brass tacks, there’s no progress,” she said.

Rauner didn’t meet with the press or issue a statement after the meeting.

No date was released for the next meeting, the details of which are apparently still being worked out.

The House returns to Springfield on Wednesday, and the leading legislators indicated there might be progress on House Bill 4305 by Rep. Martin Moylan, D-Des Plaines. It would make nearly $2 billion available to local governments and people owed by the state, such as lottery winners who are now taking vouchers for winnings greater than $600.

The state has entered the sixth month of fiscal year 2016 without a budget.

The Democrats want money for state services beyond the $32.5 billion estimated available. They passed a $36 billion spending plan, saying they’d work with the governor on revenues and cuts.

With the exception of money for primary and secondary education, the governor vetoed most of the Legislature’s plan, saying he wouldn’t support additional revenue until he gets some of his agenda items, which he says are reforms and necessary if Illinois’ economy is to improve.

Meanwhile, the state is spending at clip that could put it $4 billion to $5 billion into the red as it funds the education budget, satisfies its debt service and pays for items demanded by court orders, consent decrees and in continuing appropriations.

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