CHICAGO - Acrimony between Republican Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and the General Assembly's Democratic majority over the fiscal 2016 budget is building as Democrats plan to press ahead with their own $36 billion spending plan that's $3 billion short of needed revenue.
"Democrats in the Legislature, both the House and Senate, will offer a spending plan that will be consistent with our view of what the state of Illinois should do for Illinoisans who need the government to be helpful for them," House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said at a Memorial Day news conference.
The Democratic majority will begin hearing budget bills in committee this week with the goal of passing a $36.3 billion spending plan by Sunday's scheduled adjournment. After that date, legislation requires a three-fifths majority to pass instead of a simple majority.
The freshman governor fired back in a response issued before Madigan's news conference.
"Speaker Madigan and the politicians he controls are walking away from the negotiating table and refusing to compromise on critical reforms needed to turnaround Illinois," Rauner communications director Lance Trover said. "Instead, they appear ready to end the regular session with yet another broken budget or massive tax hike - and no structural reforms. The Speaker and his allies in the legislature are sorely mistaken if they believe the people of Illinois will accept doubling down on a broken system that has failed Illinois over the last dozen years."
The freshman governor earlier this year proposed a roughly $32 billion general fund budget that would eliminate a more than $6 billion deficit through deep cuts without any new revenue and $2.2 billion in projected savings from pension reforms.
Rauner has tied his support for any tax or revenue increases to mitigate spending cuts to legislative support for proposals in his turnaround agenda, including reforms to workers compensation, term limits, civil judgment caps, how legislative boundaries are drawn, and collective bargaining limits for local governments.
Republicans on Friday submitted legislation on the various proposals. Senate committee hearings have been scheduled on some, but Democrats have so far balked at the Rauner's demand to link new revenues to passage of his proposals.
Madigan on Monday called passage of a state budget the "most important thing" now and said it was "not appropriate" to bring non-budget issues into the budget making process.
Madigan labeled Rauner's reliance on $2.2 billion in savings from pension reforms next year as "reckless" especially given the Illinois Supreme Court's recent voiding of 2013 pension reforms as a violation of the Illinois constitution. The state's schedule fiscal 2016 contribution from general funds totals $6.7 billion.
"There should be cuts but there should also be new money," to balance the budget, Madigan said.
The state's credit ratings and market perception hang in the balance amid the jockeying over a budget. Standard & Poor's has the state's A-minus rating on negative watch and said it intends to act within the next three months, with a focus on the current legislative session the budget.
The court's voiding of the 2013 pension reforms escalates pressure on Rauner and lawmakers to enact a more structurally sound budget that doesn't drive up the state's overdue bills or rely on non-recurring revenues. It's unclear how soon lawmakers might act on a new pension proposal. Illinois is the lowest rated state at the A-minus level and all three rating agencies assign a negative outlook.
Rauner warned last week that a lengthy special session could lie ahead.
Rauner could either veto the package approved by Democrats or earmark spending as he wants based on more modest estimates of available revenue in the fiscal year beginning July 1.
Sources being floated for new revenue include an income tax hike, an expansion of the sales tax to cover some services, taxing retirement income, and a millionaire's income tax surcharge.
The budget also cuts Medicaid, higher education, and local government income aid by more than $2.5 billion collectively.
Aside from the budget stalemate, other items still to be addressed include an expansion of gambling that would include a new casino for Chicago.
Cook County is pursuing support for a pension reform package, but Rauner may push instead for a larger omnibus pension reform package that impacts the state, Chicago and other local governments. Chicago is expected to ask lawmakers later this year for relief from a looming $550 million in its public safety contributions.