Rauner: Illinois 'very close' to budget deal. Senate leaders less hopeful
Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner told a suburban business group Wednesday that state lawmakers are "very close" to a budget deal that would break a two-year stalemate.
At the GOA Regional Business Association luncheon in Elk Grove Village, Rauner offered no details but called it "a big comprehensive package."
He said that after its passage, he will travel to Texas, Arizona, Indiana and other states to recruit businesses to move to Illinois.
State Senate leaders were less hopeful than Rauner. They spent months crafting and pushing a plan they'd hoped would have bipartisan support, but it failed to advance last month. Democrats accused Rauner of pulling Republican votes off the deal at the last minute, which Rauner denied.
"We appreciate the governor's optimism," said John Patterson, a spokesman for Senate President John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat. "Throughout all of this the Senate president has been working with (Senate Republican) Leader (Christine) Radogno to do what's best for the state, which is restore fiscal stability and stop the bleeding."
A spokeswoman for Radogno, of Lemont, noted "in a legislative session, there are always discussions taking place." The Illinois Legislature is in the midst of a two-week break and will return to Springfield on Monday for the final stretch of the spring session.
Rauner, promoting his pro-business agenda in the speech Wednesday, called the suburbs "the backbone of Illinois prosperity."
His proposals, which include a property tax freeze, changes to the state's workers' compensation system and term limits on elected officials, have put him at odds with Democrats who control the legislature.
That feud has left the state without a budget for two years, contributing to Illinois' economic tailspin, including $13.4 billion owed to businesses and service providers.
Among suburban companies owed money is Cigna Health, with offices in Rosemont. The health insurer for state employees is waiting on $66 million in past due bills.
Other local companies say payments are coming in much more slowly than expected. Cogent Communications, which has offices in Elk Grove Village, has received just $30,000 on a yearlong $449,000 internet services contract with the state that ends June 30.
Elk Grove Village Bank and Trust Vice President Robert Grunwald, who was at the GOA luncheon, said a number of the bank's clients, among them contractors and lawyers, have presented concerns about cash flow and delayed payments from the state.
"You want to get paid in under 90 days," he said. "If you're working with the state, that's not happening."
Also Wednesday, Rauner stopped at Maine East High School, the winner of more than 100 schools that submitted videos on innovative learning to the governor's office. Maine East won the most online votes among five finalists posted to Rauner's Facebook page.
He concluded his day at the Northwest Suburban Republican Lincoln Day Dinner at Cotillion Banquets in Palatine, which featured U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Illinois GOP Chairman Timothy Schneider of Bartlett and AM 560 radio host Dan Proft as speakers. The $100-and-up event, with a private $50 "Trump wine and Wisconsin cheese" reception, drew about two dozen protesters along Northwest Highway carrying signs criticizing Republican officeholders and the lack of a state budget, along with other issues.
• Daily Herald Staff Writer Christopher Placek contributed.