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Democrats Likely To Find Budget Framework "Inadequate," Speaker Says

Amanda Vinicky

A rough outline of budget ideas for Illinois may already be on the way to a dead-end;  Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is giving a cool reception to a potential budget framework drafted by a group of state legislators.

Last week, a bipartisan informal group of legislators with budget expertise announced they'd compiled a draft path to a balanced budget. They were to present it to their leaders.

Monday, one of those leaders -- Speaker Madigan -- gave his opinion.

"I think you will find many Democrats who will find that framework to be inadequate," he said in an interview with NPR Illinois. "That's an important thing to understand. Because you'll find the majority of Democrats have a strong view as to what the government of Illinois should do for the people of Illinois. And I think that they would find that that framework would not be fully supportive of what they think the ... government of the state of Illinois should do for the people in education, social services health care. So it was a group of people that met, they talked, they exchanged ideas. It hasn't been shared with the general membership in the legislature. That's an important thing to do."

The outline relies on $2.4 billion in spending reductions (with cuts to Medicaid, having schools and universities take on the cost of their most expensive pensions, and other changes) and more than double that -- $5.4 billion -- in new revenue, including tax hikes (a higher income tax, a broadened sales tax base, gambling expansion, are a few of the options).

Madigan says he isn't ready to pass final judgment on it. But he predicts many Democrats will find the framework "inadequate," and that they won't appreciate the depth of the cuts, and stressed it's nature as a loose draft.

"Whatever the agreement is has not been shared with the people in the legislature," he said. That would be a very interesting exercise." When pressed on his own opinion, of the plan's adequacy, Madigan answered: "I don't know enough about it to say whether it's adequate or inadequate. It's a framework.”

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner Monday refused to offer specific thoughts on the framework, saying he'll comment on the rank-and-file legislators' proposal "at the right time." The governor has said he's cautiously optimistic, and praised the working group for generating compromise ideas.

Rauner and the legislative leaders are scheduled to meet Tuesday in Springfield, for only the second time this year.

Amanda Vinicky moved to Chicago Tonight on WTTW-TV PBS in 2017.
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