(Adds governor saying he intends to sign the measure; other comments)
By Karen Pierog
CHICAGO, May 31 (Reuters) - The Illinois House gave final legislative approval on Thursday to a $38.5 billion fiscal 2019 budget that will now head to Governor Bruce Rauner, avoiding the political stalemate that had plagued the state in previous years.
The Republican governor praised the bipartisan effort and compromise and said he will be taking action soon to enact the spending plan, which the Senate overwhelmingly passed on Wednesday.
“It’s a step in the right direction, though it does not include much-needed debt paydown and reforms that would reduce taxes, grow our economy, create jobs and raise family incomes,” Rauner said in a statement.
Like the Senate vote, the House vote was also lopsided at 97-18 with several lawmakers hailing the efforts of Democrats and Republicans in both legislative chambers to craft a budget.
“Both sides did not get everything they hoped for, but our priorities - Republican and Democrat - have been met,” House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said.
An impasse between Rauner and Democrats who control the legislature left the nation’s fifth-largest state without complete budgets for an unprecedented two-straight fiscal years. Lawmakers finally enacted a fiscal 2018 budget and income tax rate hikes over Rauner’s vetoes last July. Revenue from the tax increase, which Rauner has vowed to roll back, is incorporated in the budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1.
Not all lawmakers were sold on the bipartisan plan. Republican State Representative David McSweeney said the budget should be rejected because it fails to cut spending and reduce taxes.
“The taxpayers of this state are getting killed and this bill continues the carnage,” he said during the debate.
The spending plan does not include controversial elements in Rauner’s proposed budget, which called for shifting some pension costs currently paid by the state onto local school districts, state universities and community colleges.
The budget adds $350 million to a new K-12 school funding formula enacted last year, increases higher education spending by 2 percent, reduces cuts in state aid to local governments, and appropriates $1.3 billion to pay previously incurred expenses.
It also includes a voluntary buyout of certain pension benefits expected to save the state about $423 million in fiscal 2019. (Reporting by Karen Pierog, additional reporting by Tracy Rucinski in Chicago Editing by Matthew Lewis)