No state budget until at least February
By John O’Connor
SPRINGFIELD — Illinois state senators ditched their planned vote Thursday on a compromise to end a historic budget deadlock and got a stern lecture from leaders about what tough steps they must take next month when they reconvene.
Not a single vote was recorded this week on what has been called the “grand bargain” to loosen the grip of stalemate between Democrats who control the Legislature and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. The longest period a state has gone with no spending plan since World War II has led to a projected deficit of $5.3 billion, $11 billion in overdue bills and a $130 gap in what’s needed to cover retirees’ pensions.
Senate President John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, pledged that the chamber would vote on a budget fix, albeit not until next month.
“Then it’s going to come time to make a decision,” Cullerton said on the floor during a brief session. “The problems we face are not going to disappear; they’re going to get more difficult every day. When we return Feb. 7, everybody should be ready and prepared to vote.”
Radogno and Cullerton had tried to strike quickly after the new year, but Republicans were wary. They hoped that after more work, there could be a vote this week.
However, the Senate failed to whip votes up for a complex, 13-bill package covering everything from a tax on car repair to a riverboat casino in Danville.
“It’s incredibly complicated, and the more you try to refine it, the more things crop up,” Republican Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont said.
The plan raises the income tax and creates a service tax to beat down the deficit; includes cost-saving measures to the workers’ compensation program and a property-tax freeze sought by Rauner; pension- and school-funding overhauls; expanded casino gambling and more.