IL state senators craft budget deal, aim to end stalemate

Monday, February 6, 2017
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State senators are working on a "grand bargain" package of 12 bills as part of an effort to end the state's 19-month budget stalemate.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- State Senate leaders from both parties are working a budget deal that aims to end Illinois' 19-month budget stalemate, the Democratic Senate president said Monday during an event in Chicago.

"If not this plan, then what? If not now, then when?" Sen. John Cullerton, D-Chicago, asked during a speech during the City Club luncheon with business leaders, politicians and lobbyists.

The Illinois Senate reconvenes in Springfield on Tuesday and this is the first sign of progress toward ending the longest-running state budget impasse in the country.

Cullerton tried to sell the plan - which he called the "grand bargain. He said he's putting final touches on the proposal with Republican Senate Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, who did not attend the lunch.

"It's an intricate and delicate give and take designed to create a plan that can win bi-partisan support among lawmakers," Cullerton said.

The "grand plan" is a package of 12 bills still under construction and include measures that:

- increases the state income tax to just under five percent

- revises school funding formula

- reforms pensions and workers compensation

- freezes property taxes for two years

- permits a Chicago casino

- borrows $7 billion to pay down the state's $11 billion bill backlog

"Either this 'grand bargain' or something close to it. Passing this 'grand bargain' would put the focus on the Illinois House and the Governor's Speech next week," said Laurence Msall, of the Chicago Civic Federation.

When Gov. Bruce Rauner delivers his budget speech Feb. 15, Cullerton hopes Rauner includes "grand bargain" elements that the Senate could approve later this week.

Cullerton told reporters that the governor and House Speaker Michael Madigan, who eventually must agree on a budget, are not involved in the negotiations.

"We're not focusing on working with the Governor nor the House. Eventually, we will need to but we're trying to see if we can do this within our own chamber," Cullerton said.

Cullerton said that when senators return to Springfield, the parties will caucus and could begin voting on the various bills as soon as Tuesday and certainly by later this week.

A bill to increase the state minimum wage that had been part of an earlier packages has been eliminated.