Protesters stage overnight sit-in over budget outside Gov. Rauner's office

Sarah Schulte Image
Tuesday, May 30, 2017
Protesters stage sit-in over budget outside Gov. Rauner's office
As Illinois approached 700 days without a budget, protesters from social services agencies staged an overnight sit-in outside Governor Bruce Rauner's office.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WLS) -- As Illinois approached 700 days without a budget and a midnight deadline for the current legislative session looms in just over a day, protesters from social services agencies staged a protest outside the state capitol in Springfield and then a sit-in outside Governor Bruce Rauner's office.

Dozens of demonstrators refused to leave the state capitol until they were forced to.

"Our elected officials need to choose the side of the people, right now they are putting the interests of the top 1 percent and corporations ahead of human needs," said Alex Muhammad, protester.

With a day to go before the legislative session ends, the pressure is on for the House to consider a Senate budget plan that includes and income and sales tax hike.

"There are certain elements of the plan we would like to change, programs that were reduced that we'd like to reinstate, revenue sources that they didn't consider that we'd like to consider, so we're weighing the balance of that plan," said State Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago).

Not all House Democrats are comfortable with a senate plan that calls for an income and sales tax hike, and Governor Rauner refuses to accept a deal without what he calls "reforms."

The General Assembly passed other non-budgetary laws, including a hike in the minimum wage. So far no budgetary items have come to the floor. The legislative sessions ends at midnight on May 31.

Earlier in the day, dozens of protesters from a coalition of Chicago area social services agencies demanded to get inside the Illinois capitol.

"So they are acting like this is actually a complicated thing, but in reality if they had the courage to close corporate tax loopholes and make the every wealthy pay their fair share of taxes we could raise the revenue we need for our state," said Kristi Sanford, Fair Economy Illinois.

Protesters eventually made their way in. Some interrupted the House floor before getting thrown out, while others went directly to Governor Rauner's office, some blocking it. The only words from the governor Tuesday about the budget came from his Facebook Live feed. He tried to blame Democrats for the budget woes.

"The General Assembly majority that's been in power for 35 years, so far they haven't wanted to change anything. They like the status quo. Their cronies in government who make money from taxpayers love the current system. They don't want to change it, but the system is broken," he said.

As he once again blamed Democratic lawmakers for the state mess, the governor continued to push for a property tax freeze, one of the reforms he wants before agreeing to a budget with tax hikes. Tuesday that Illinois Senate passed a two-year freeze. Rauner wanted a four-year freeze.

"He's been asking for us to agree to help with him, to give him more reforms before he passes a balanced budget or before he signs a balance budget. We've been doing that, we feel, pretty consistently," said State Senator Tom Cullterton (D-23).