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Senate Democrats Want Republican Votes On Stopgap Spending Plan

Heather Steans
Office of Sen. Heather Steans
Sen. Heather Steans

Illinois Senate Democrats are hoping to win bipartisan support for a partial government spending plan.

The proposal would release more than $800 million that’s been collected in special state accounts for higher education and human services, areas that have been particularly squeezed during the 22-month budget stalemate.

The House Democrats called it a “lifeline” bill. House Republicans voted against the measure, saying it undercut pressure to get a comprehensive budget deal.

But Senate Democrats, like Heather Steans of Chicago, hope to negotiate support from Republicans.

“There is a sense of urgency. I think both the Senate President and Leader Radogno have been expressing a sense of urgency. So we’re hoping to make progress and do so quickly,” Steans says.

“They’ve both given us that direction, seriously,” she added.

Republican Sen. Karen McConnaughay, from St. Charles, says she and her colleagues are open to working together. But she’s wary of easing the pressure on lawmakers to pass a complete budget.

“We really need to discipline ourselves to get to a balanced budget, and avoid shortcuts or temporary solutions that are just once again more band-aids on a problem that we just cannot continue to escape," McConnaughay says.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has criticized what he called another “stopgap” spending plan, saying it won’t lead to a balanced budget.

The Senate is expected to make changes to the spending bill passed by the House.

A spokesman for the Democratic caucus says there are differences among Democrats that have yet to be worked out. He would not predict whether a vote will happen this week.

A spokeswoman for the Senate Republicans did not respond to a request for comment.

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
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