By Sophia Tareen
CHICAGO — Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has called state legislators back to the Capitol for a special session starting next week to hammer out a budget deal and end an unprecedented impasse that could enter a third year.
The Republican, in a Thursday Facebook video and statement, accused majority Democrats of “ignoring” his long-term recommendations to fix the state’s massive financial problems.
“We have tough urgent choices to make and the Legislature must be present to make them,” he said. “We have little time to change the direction of our state to come together around a budget compromise that creates a brighter future for all the families in Illinois.”
Democrats rejected Rauner’s statements Thursday, saying they’ve presented viable options.
Lawmakers adjourned last month without a deal before a critical May 31 deadline, triggering the need for a three-fifths majority vote instead of a majority on a budget agreement. There are options on the table, including a Senate-backed plan and another presented this week by Republicans.
The special session could run up to 10 days with dates set from June 21 to June 30. The new fiscal year starts July 1.
The back-and-forth is a repeat of the last two years in Springfield, with both sides blaming each other for the stalemate — the longest of any U.S. state.
The first-term governor has called for pro-business reforms since he took office in 2015, saying they should happen in conjunction with a budget and an income tax increase. Democrats have said some of those ideas hurt the middle class and they’ve taken up many others, including workers compensation reform. Republicans say the attempts fall short.
In the meantime, pressure has been mounting to get a deal.
Credit ratings agencies have threatened further downgrades to the state’s lowest-in-the-nation rating without a state spending plan. On Thursday, Illinois Lottery officials said the state might get dropped by the end of the month from Powerball and Mega Millions games without a budget.
House Speaker Michael Madigan said Democrats have worked to find common ground from the beginning, but Rauner has refused.
“House Democrats will continue our work on the budget from Springfield,” Madigan said in a statement. “But as Governor Rauner has met each of our attempts to date with refusal, it’s clear that the onus is on the governor to show that he is finally serious about working in good faith to end the crisis he has manufactured.”
Senate President John Cullerton’s spokesman John Patterson said the Senate budget — a $37 billion spending plan with cuts and an income tax increase — draws on Rauner’s ideas. He said the Senate wants the governor to “finish the job.”
“I’m not sure where Governor Rauner was during the first half of the year, but the Senate did his work and balanced his spending plan using the numbers and tax rate he wanted,” Patterson said, urging Rauner to work with legislators in the House.
Rauner said he supports the Republican budget and reform plan announced this week, calling it a compromise. It calls for a four-year property tax freeze, term limits and other changes for an income tax increase that expires after four years.
The Democratic Governors Association Thursday blasted Rauner, saying he has played out the same political theatre show the governor has hammered Democrats over.
“Bruce Rauner’s decision to hold a fundraiser before calling a special session shows voters exactly what his priorities are,” said DGA Illinois Communications Director Sam Salustro. “Holding fundraisers and campaign-style events, and running attack ads, is exactly the theatrical politics that landed his as ‘most vulnerable incumbent in the nation.’”
“Holding fundraisers and campaign-style events, and running attack ads, is exactly the theatrical politics that landed his as ‘most vulnerable incumbent in the nation.’”
Rauner recently completed a three-day campaign through the state.
During the impasse, the state’s backlog of unpaid bills has topped $14 billion and there’ve been major blows to higher education and social services with cutbacks.
A coalition of social service providers has filed several lawsuits seeking to force the state to pay, saying the state hasn’t honored contracts during the impasse. An appellate court dismissed one of the lawsuits on Thursday.
With staff reports. This story has been updated.