End of Session Brings Renewed Hope, Doubt for Budget Compromise

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The state has operated without a budget for 11 months, and as the May 31 end of session approaches, there's both doubt and hope there will be a budget compromise.

A group of lawmakers who call themselves the "budgeteers" have sent their own budget proposal to Gov. Bruce Rauner and the state’s four legislative leaders. In it, they've proposed a combination of tax hikes and spending cuts.

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[ReadHigher Taxes, Big Cuts in Illinois Budget Proposal]

If adopted, they believe the state will see a $5.4 billion influx. But taxpayers will be hit with various hikes: The individual income tax rate would be raised to 4.85 percent from the current rate of 3.75 percent. The budgeteers also believe that various cuts could add up to $2.5 billion in savings.

Rauner wants a two-year budget which includes his pro-business, union-weakening proposals. 

Can lawmakers and the governor finally agree on a budget? 

Rep. David Harris (R-Arlington Heights) isn’t optimistic.

“I don’t know that they’re passing out any happy pills in Springfield yet. Going 11 months and now trying to do everything in the next 15 days is hard – not impossible, but hard,” Harris said on “Chicago Tonight.”

Harris said the continued impasse is due in part to the difficult and contentious policy issues, such as collective bargaining, worker’s compensation, prevailing wage and property tax freezes.

Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) said those ancillary policy disputes and the budget are the two major problems facing the state legislature right now.

“The budget problem is important – really important – and difficult – really difficult, but there’s kind of a mechanism to come together. You can average two numbers. You know what halfway between my budget idea and your budget idea looks like,” Biss said. “On some of these policy questions … you have diametrically opposite core philosophies. And so if the goal is to get all of those things worked out simultaneously, I think you’re going to have a great degree of difficulty getting there.”

Biss said getting rank-and-file members to agree on a budget might be a path to success.

“I think there is an extremely strong opportunity for rank-and-file legislators to push. I think if you’re saying, will there be a coup where one of the four leaders is deposed? I think that’s unlikely simply because the situation is so tense that people tend to hunker down together,” Biss said.

“I know the average person thinks we’re all clowns,” Harris said. “The overwhelming majority of legislators are responsible people who want to help the state of Illinois and move the state of Illinois forward ... So it’s frustrating when we’re stuck that the way they are.”

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