Budget meeting brings drama, not solutions

A long-awaited budget talk among Gov. Bruce Rauner and other Illinois leaders repeated some of the well-worn conflicts that have punctuated the lengthy impasse over state spending and ended with the promise of yet another meeting.

Rauner used his opening public comments to outline top priorities in the upcoming negotiations, calling term limits for public officials and changes to how political boundaries are drawn “easy votes” for state lawmakers.

“Let's vote for the next generation, not the next election,” he said.

But shortly after the meeting adjourned, Rauner's chief foil, Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, called both the issues Republican talking points for the 2016 campaign, raising questions of whether a budget compromise is anywhere close to reality.

“I don't think that they ought to be advancing political party positions relative to a future campaign” as part of budget talks, Madigan said.

Another meeting could be scheduled for next week, the leaders said. But they'll have another bipartisan test Wednesday as House lawmakers convene at the Capitol to perhaps consider legislation from state Rep. Marty Moylan, a Des Plaines Democrat, that would send to suburban communities some of the money from gasoline and gambling taxes that have been delayed since the budget impasse began. It would also pay lottery winners.

The House approved it weeks ago, but Democratic leaders held it up.

Madigan said he's “hopeful” a deal can be reached by Wednesday, and Senate President John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, said he'd call the Senate back to Springfield soon to consider it if the House approves.

The proposal won't solve the whole state budget impasse, though, leaving doubt the fight will be finished by the end of the year.

The other priority Rauner outlined was a property tax freeze that would include provisions that Democrats say would weaken unions. Rauner said he'd be open to a state tax increase if he gets compromise on his interests.

The Tuesday meeting was called for by a handful of good-government groups and comes as the state begins its sixth month without a full budget in place. The summit received widespread hype, in part because Rauner and the four top legislative leaders hadn't met as a group since May to try to work out the disagreement.

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