Lawmakers hopeful of Thursday budget vote

Staff Report 

Details of a potential budget agreement coming from Springfield Wednesday afternoon had lawmakers hopeful of finishing a deal that would see Illinois’ schools open in the fall and the state’s bills paid through the end of 2016.

The measures, expected to come in the form of two separate pieces of legislation, were under discussion in both houses of the General Assembly during the day Wednesday. The House and Senate both adjourned late in the afternoon but both planned to be back in session Thursday morning after hammering out the details through the night.

House Democrats and Republicans were both expected to caucus in the morning, then come back to the floor to “complete our work,” said state Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie.

“I feel good,” state Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, told the Chicago Tribune. “I think it’s a high likelihood that this is real. I’ve heard support from both Democrats and Republicans on this.”

Newspapers across the state Wednesday said “Enough” with the impasse, calling on leaders to pass a budget.

“We are still drafting bills, and nailing down some details, which is why I am not interested in getting into the nuances of all of this,” House Speaker Mike Madigan’s spokesperson Steve Brown said. “But I’d like to express our view that good progress continues to be made.”

The education bill is expected to give around $250 million to the state’s K-12 schools, with nearly $100 million of that earmarked for Chicago’s system.

A separate spending plan for universities, social services and government operations would see the state remain operable past the November elections to the end of the year. Lawmakers and executive leaders hope a full budget plan can be struck after the election season passes.

The day of action in the state capital comes after more than 60 newspapers printed front page editorials proclaiming that the budget impasse in Illinois had drug on long enough and that a long term financial roadmap for the state was necessary.

With coordination from the Illinois Press Association, many papers ran an editorial produced by Springfield’s State Journal-Register on their covers, including The Rock River Times and the Rockford Register Star.

“That voice becomes very, very powerful when we join together,” the SJ-R’s interim publisher Rosanne Cheeseman told the AP.

Illinois would enter its second consecutive fiscal year without a budget Friday. The state’s outstanding bills total more than $8 billion.

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