CHICAGO May 31 A deal to end Illinois' nearly
two-year-old budget stalemate remained elusive on Wednesday as
lawmakers faced a midnight deadline to agree on a state spending
plan with simple majority votes.
The impasse between Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and
Democrats who control the House and Senate showed no overt sign
of ending, which could push budget deliberations past
Wednesday's scheduled end of the legislative session. Starting
on Thursday, lawmakers would need to muster a tougher majority
vote of three-fifths to pass a spending plan.
The nation's fifth-largest state is nearing the June 30 end
of its unprecedented second-straight fiscal year without a full
As a result, Illinois' pile of unpaid bills, a barometer of
the state's structural deficit, has topped $14 billion. Major
rating agencies, which have pushed Illinois down the credit
scale six times to a level two steps above junk since Rauner
took office in January 2015, have signaled more downgrades are
Despite offering no evidence that a budget deal with
Democrats is imminent, Rauner told a Facebook Live audience on
Tuesday he believed a budget accord was within striking distance
– as long as it included “true, lasting property tax relief.”
“One way or another, we’re going to get this done,” Rauner
said. “Persistence is the key.”
In a new wrinkle on his property-tax freeze pitch, Rauner
said he believed residents should have the ability to force
local governments through referenda to lower property taxes.
That provision was not included in two separate
Democratic-sponsored property-tax freeze measures that passed
the Senate and moved to the House on Tuesday. Both offered
two-year freezes on property-tax extensions for school districts
and local governments outside Chicago. Levies dedicated to
pension and debt payments were exempted from the freeze.
After the bills passed the Senate with veto-proof
majorities, the governor’s office pounced on the legislation as
“This is a phony two-year freeze riddled with holes being
offered in exchange for a very real and permanent, massive tax
hike,” Rauner spokeswoman Eleni Demertzis said.
A $37.3 billion fiscal 2018 budget plan that includes income
tax hikes, a sales tax on services, and spending cuts passed the
Senate last week with no Republican votes.
(Editing by Matthew Lewis)