Temporary budget, likely doomed, goes to Illinois governor

 
 
Updated 7/15/2015 4:24 PM

SPRINGFIELD -- Illinois lawmakers adopted a stop-gap budget plan Wednesday and readied to send it to a dismissive Gov. Bruce Rauner on a day when a flurry of state Capitol activity did little to move the state toward a yearlong spending agreement.

Despite the first-year Republican governor's well-known opposition, the Senate put up a partisan roll call to OK a $2.3 billion, one-month budget to Illinois' state government going. Democrats, who have used provisional fiscal plans several times in the past decade, want to keep essential and emergency services available during the standoff, but Rauner wants a permanent agreement.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Senate approved it on a vote of 39-0 with 15 voting "present."

The rest of the day offered a lot of heat, but little light. There were Senate votes to override Rauner's veto of several budget bills, but House reluctance spells certain failure. And a plan billed as a property-tax freeze compromise with Rauner by Democratic Senate President John Cullerton failed.

The interim financial plan was the lone substantive proposal that made progress, but not before hoots of derision from Rauner's GOP colleagues in the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

"This puts us on a path to cementing in an out-of-balance, unconstitutional budget," Senate Republican budget leader Matt Murphy of Palatine said during floor debate. "Let's stop doing this a month at a time and get down to the business of comprising on the fundamental reforms necessary to make Illinois great again."

Legislative Democrats were behind a $36 billion budget last spring they acknowledged had a deficit of up to $4 billion. They want a tax increase to cover what they say are vital services, while Rauner has demanded action on pro-business and political reforms such as restrictions on compensation for injured workers and officeholder term limits before negotiating on the budget gap.

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After the July 1 commencement of the fiscal year came and went, Democrats fashioned a checking account for July -- as they did in 2004 and 2007 -- to keep the Capitol lights on.

"It's very narrowly focused," the legislation's sponsor, Democratic Sen. Heather Steans of Chicago, said. "This is in no way an attempt to over-spend. Rather, we're trying to ensure that those key services that really do impact the health and welfare of particularly vulnerable groups are being met."

The House changed the plan last week to add salaries for all 64,500 state workers for July, not just those performing "essential" services. This came after Rauner sought court orders to be able to pay employees and keep them working even without a budget. Courts so far have ruled in his favor, and the first batch of checks goes out today.

The veto overrides were an attempt by Democrats to show action during a summer in which taxpayers have seen little movement. Democrats used their supermajority to override Rauner's vetoes on several budget bills sent him in June. If the House took similar action, those parts of the budget would take effect, but two House Democrats necessary for successful override there remain opposed.

Cullerton's property tax freeze -- latching onto one of Rauner's key reforms -- added a provision to create a new system for subsidizing public schools, almost universally seen as unfair. Decades of ignored studies suggesting improvements sit on shelves, but Cullerton said his initiative wouldn't suffer the same treatment because it creates an ending date for the current aid formula, forcing lawmakers to find a replacement by that sunset.

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