CHICAGO, March 1 Movement on a bipartisan deal
to end Illinois' record budget impasse halted on Wednesday with
the Democratic head of the state Senate pinning the blame on
Republican Governor Bruce Rauner.
The Senate had been scheduled to continue voting on a
package of legislation negotiated by Senate President John
Cullerton and Republican Leader Christine Radogno in an effort
to end Illinois' 20-month budget stalemate. The chamber passed
some of the bills on Tuesday.
But Cullerton told the chamber on Wednesday that Rauner
"decided to inject himself in this process and doesn't want this
approved in this form," a move, he said, that removed Republican
votes for the bills.
"For now we are in a holding pattern," Cullerton said,
adding that the chamber would be ready to start voting again "as
soon as we get word there is Republican support."
Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said while some progress
has been made, "more work is needed to achieve a good deal for
Although the governor has not been involved in the Senate
negotiations, his proposed fiscal 2018 budget incorporates
aspects of the deal to fill a funding gap.
Illinois, the nation's fifth-largest state, is limping
through a record-setting second consecutive fiscal year without
a complete budget due to an ongoing feud between Rauner and
Democrats who control the legislature. A six-month fiscal 2017
budget expired on Dec. 31.
The state's pile of unpaid bills has mushroomed to $12
billion, while its unfunded pension liability has climbed to
$130 billion. As a result, Illinois' credit ratings, which have
been downgraded six times since January 2015, are the lowest
among the 50 states.
The Senate's bipartisan legislative package includes bills
to complete the fiscal 2017 budget, hike taxes, cut pension
costs by about $1 billion annually, authorize borrowing to pay
down the bill pile, expand casino gaming and freeze local
All of the bills are tied to each other, so that if one
failed to pass the entire package would go down.
While Cullerton expressed frustration with the governor's
action during a post-session press conference, Radogno was more
"I know the governor will be joining us to get in trying to
get that done," she said on the Senate floor. "We need to get
this done and done soon.”
(Reporting by Karen Pierog; Editing by Leslie Adler)