CHICAGO — With Illinois lawmakers mired in a budget stalemate as they head into the homestretch of their spring session, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is warning of a lengthy special session.
Illinois has a $6 billion budget gap to close in its fiscal 2016 budget, and the state's credit ratings and market perception hang in the balance. Standard & Poor's previously put 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.
Illinois is the lowest rated state at the A-minus level and all three rating agencies assign a negative outlook.
The General Assembly's Democratic majority is expected to pursue its own version of a budget in the final days of the session slated to wrap up May 31. Democrats have balked at items in the Republican governor's so-called turnaround agenda.
The freshman governor has tied his support for new revenues, as opposed to cuts to balance the budget, to Democratic support for his turnaround proposals. Legislation was expected to be filed Friday on some of the proposals.
They include reforms to workers' compensation insurance, how legislative boundaries are drawn, and civil judgments.
They also include a local property tax freeze and a constitutional amendment on term limits. Rauner also is calling for support for a pending Republican-sponsored bill that would establish a Chapter 9 bankruptcy provision.
Democrats have accused the governor of holding the budget process hostage to his agenda. With the two sides at loggerheads and rancor growing, Rauner warned in an op-ed piece in the State Journal-Register of a lengthy special session ahead.
"We're approaching the end of the regular legislative session with no apparent long-term solution to the state's budget, pension and economic mess," he wrote. "If legislators are willing to reform how we do business, they will find me an eager partner. If they are not, then they should expect a very long extra session because I will keep fighting for major reforms that will grow jobs and help properly fund services by shrinking waste inside government."
With little compromise so far toward a new budget, state Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said: "Somebody's got to go forward with a budget so that's what we're trying to do."
The Democrats' budget would likely fall in line with the current year's budget of $36 billion, forcing Rauner to either veto the package 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 proposal to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot asking voters to approve a 3% surcharge on upper income residents could raise $1 billion annually for education, according to its sponsor, House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago. If approved, the question would appear on the November 2016 ballot.
On Thursday, in a roll call vote the measure fell three votes short of the 71 mark needed to meet the three-fifths super majority to pass, so Madigan postponed its formal consideration which allows it to be brought up again. Democrats hold a super majority but several joined Republicans in opposing the legislation.
In addition to opposing deep cuts, Democrats have said Rauner's budget proposal is not balanced as it relies on $2.2 billion in savings from pension reforms that if passed, would face a legal challenge and uncertain fate.
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 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.
No plan has surfaced to overhaul state pensions following the Illinois Supreme Court's rejection earlier this month of a 2013 overhaul. Chicago is expected to ask lawmakers later this year for relief from a looming $550 million in its public safety contributions.
After May 31, a three-fifths majority is needed to approve measures instead of the simple majority required during regular sessions. New debt always requires a three-fifths majority.