Illinois Lawmakers Debate Budget Legislation And The Past

Mar 10, 2016

Illinois lawmakers are working on a budget for next year, but the state has gone nine months without a budget for this year. Governor Bruce Rauner's office made its case Wednesday before members of the Senate.

Sen. Kwame Raoul of Chicago in Springfield committee meeting.
Credit Sarah Mueller WUIS

 The governor has asked legislators to give him extraordinary powers to unilaterally cut the budget. They're considering a proposal to let Rauner reduce or delay pension payments. The measure would give the governor the power to make unilateral cuts and reallocate money around state government.

Tim Nuding, Rauner's budget director, said the governor would rather get a bipartisan deal, including the pension changes, instead of going it alone.

Senate President John Cullerton has a pension proposal Rauner supports. But Cullerton said his legislation is not a quick fix for the state's massive pension liability.

"I can assure you the best way to pass is not to introduce it now," he said. "So, if we want to work together on actually passing the bill, I would suggest that we would strategize because right now we don't have enough votes."

The bitterness between Democratic lawmakers, who control both chambers, and members of Rauner's Republican administration was evident during the hearing. Each side accused the other of being responsible for the state's financial mess and for not doing enough to resolve it.

  One of the governor's top aides Richard Goldberg denied his office walked away from a budget compromise last year, an accusation leveled by State Senator Kwame Raoul.

"It was not the speaker, it was not the senate president who terminated those meetings, it was the governor," Raoul said.

Golderg jumped in, saying that wasn't true while Raoul kept saying he wasn't finished talking.

Legislators passed a pension overhaul in 2013, but last year the Illinois Supreme Court rejected it as unconstitutional.​