SPRINGFIELD -- Illinois Senate Democrats outlined some broad state spending goals Friday that would keep school funding intact and pay some of the state's overdue bills, but with just two weeks until the budget deadline, the biggest questions about how to cut health care for the poor and teachers' pensions remain unanswered.
Democrats including state Sen. Dan Kotowski of Park Ridge said the Senate could start voting on their budget plan as early as Monday. The plan would cut human services programs and allocate $1.3 billion to catch up on a portion of the state's unpaid bills, but details about specific budget cuts weren't given.
"It represents the kind of budget that taxpayers want to see," Kotowski said.
But Republicans are not on board, and it's unclear whether House Democrats, who have also been working on their own plan for weeks, would go along.
And if lawmakers can't agree to $2.7 billion in cuts to the Medicaid program, they'll have to go back and find other places to cut from the rest of their budget.
So questions remain, especially as lawmakers also want to try to take on complex, controversial plans to cut teachers' pension benefits and pass some of those retirement costs onto local officials.
Senate Republicans didn't hesitate in criticizing the Democrats' plan.
"It will put us on a path frankly for another (tax increase) and it does not put us on a long-term path to pay off the bills," said state Sen. Matt Murphy, a Palatine Republican.
But asked if the GOP had its own budget plan, Murphy was mum about where additional cuts would have to come from.
"You would have to go line-by-line," Murphy said.
Lawmakers have been doing that behind closed doors for weeks, and the coming week could reveal some of the fruits of those discussions.
"We're certainly closer than we were yesterday," said state Sen. Donne Trotter, a Chicago Democrat.