Lawmakers return from break facing budget issues

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois lawmakers are returning to the Capitol this week to resume work on trying to end a budget stalemate that has eluded them for almost two years.

The State Journal-Register reports that just before lawmakers’ two-week spring break, the House approved another stopgap spending bill that would give more than $800 million to human-services programs and higher education. But an overall Illinois budget remains a work in progress.

Issues include school funding reform, pension changes, a higher minimum wage and other matters that were part of the Senate’s “grand bargain.” Efforts to pass the Senate plan include a dozen interconnected bills that suffered a major setback when Republican support evaporated nearly overnight in early March.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has been at odds with the Democratic-controlled Legislature, has said he believes a deal is close.

“We’re negotiating in the Senate right now. Democrats and Republicans are coming together,” Rauner said last week. “We’re very close. We could get it done in the next couple of weeks.”

Senate President John Cullerton and Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno are working on a bipartisan solution, their spokespeople said.

“We believe there needs to be a comprehensive solution,” Radogno spokeswoman Patty Schuh. “A stopgap does not solve the needs of the state or give job creators any hope that Illinois will have stability in the near future.”

Rauner and other Republicans have said they believe passage of a stopgap measure will take pressure off lawmakers to come up with a full budget. Democratic Sen. Andy Manar of Bunker Hill said he disagrees.

“There will not be pressure removed from passing a sustainable budget until that actually happens,” he said.

–Associated Press

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