Cullerton: No stopgap budget will pass Senate

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton told the Daily Herald Thursday that his Democratic-led chamber won't approve any stopgap spending this year in lieu of a full budget.

The comments from the Chicago Democrat came as Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner called lawmakers back to Springfield for a 10-day special session beginning Wednesday.

Cullerton's comment raises the bar for solving Illinois' historic budget standoff. Without partial or stopgap spending plans like those enacted in recent years, more government services will grind to a halt on the July 1 beginning of a new fiscal year. Illinois has not passed a full-year budget since 2014.

"We are not going to have a stopgap budget this year," Cullerton said. "Our caucus doesn't want that."

Rauner, in a video released on Facebook, said lawmakers must return Wednesday and continue until they and he agree on a budget or the fiscal year ends June 30.

"Everyone needs to get to work," he said. "We have tough, urgent choices to make and the legislature must be present to make them."

Failure to pass a budget during the legislative session, which ran from January through May 31, hinged on Rauner's insistence on including pro-business measures, which he accused Democrats of "ignoring."

Cullerton took issue with Rauner's directive, questioning a special session "to do what we've already been working on that he wasn't working on."

The state's budget deficit will surpass $6.2 billion for the current fiscal year that ends June 30, the state's Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability noted in a report requested by Barrington Hills Republican Rep. David McSweeney. If Illinois enters a third year without a budget, the commission projects Illinois' backlog of unpaid bills will balloon to nearly $23 billion from the current $15.1 billion.

Senate Democrats, who have a veto-proof supermajority in the chamber, in May passed a $36.5 billion budget that includes allowing slot machines at Arlington Park and casinos in Lake County and Rockford. It would allow the state to borrow money to pay overdue bills and change how school funds are allocated.

Republican state lawmakers this week unveiled their own plan saying they would vote to raise the income tax rate from its current 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent and the corporate income tax from 5.25 percent to 7 percent, but only for four years and with a four-year property tax freeze.

Last year, lawmakers on June 30 approved an eleventh-hour stopgap plan that provided funding to schools and a portion of funding to higher education and social services.

"We've got to pass a budget," Cullerton said. "This is crisis time. The whole state, everyone who's not being paid, they want us to solve this."

Shortly before the interview with Cullerton began, members of the Senate could be heard phoning his office, asking when they were required to report to Springfield and for how long.

Asked whether it was pertinent for his members to be in Springfield at all, Cullerton said: "We're not going to vote on anything. ... The action should be in the House. What you normally expect should come out of a special session, we've already passed that."

• The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Republican Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner called lawmakers back into session to try to pass a budget, something they have not done since 2014. Associated Press File Photo
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