With time against them, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner and top leaders met again Tuesday morning to talk about adopting a budget before next month. But – there is some disagreement between leaders about just how helpful these meetings have been.
Republican leaders say they’d like for Democrats to speed up their negotiations and offer a revenue estimate. They say without one, budget negotiators are left in the dark about how much money there is to spend and can’t continue with helpful discussions.
Walking out of the one-hour meeting, Democratic Senate President John Cullerton said a revenue estimate – or lack of – is not what’s holding them up. “I wouldn’t be hung up on that,” he said, “that gets into somewhat of a gotcha game and a political fight.”
But House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said he disagrees. “It’s not gotcha – and our members don’t look at it that way. And it’s very disappointing that Democrats look at state law as advisory and not something that is obligated,” Durkin said.
With only three weeks left in the Spring legislative session, the governor also said he feels the process has been too slow. Cullerton, on the other hand, said he and House Speaker Michael Madigan feel the meetings had been productive and discussions have given party members good direction. Rauner said Democratic leaders are hesitant to agree on a revenue estimate — even when Republicans have been pushing for one. “There’s a reluctance to be pinned down,” he said.
Cullerton said he didn’t want to settle on one specific number – when there could be options for more revenue – like what the state could get from selling the Thompson Center in Chicago. He said there’s a general idea of what a revenue number could be, but it might not be enough to cover the state’s bills. “There’s a number of different things that we would consider to close the gap, and that’s what we are going to ask our negotiators to do,” Cullerton said.
The leaders say their talks have not included any tax hikes and would like to reach an agreement before June. More budget meetings have been scheduled for the rest of the week.