July 5, 2017 / 7:06 PM / 16 days ago

Illinois House sets Thursday budget veto override vote

CHICAGO, July 5 (Reuters) - The Illinois House on Thursday will attempt to overturn Governor Bruce Rauner's vetoes of spending and revenue bills and end a two-year budget impasse that threatens to sink the state's credit ratings to junk.

Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan announced the plan on Wednesday, saying "House Democrats look forward to working with our colleagues on the other side of the aisle to begin healing the wounds of the last several years."

A stalemate between the Republican governor and Democrats who control the legislature has left the nation's fifth-largest state without a complete budget for two-straight fiscal years. Since fiscal 2018 began on Saturday, the House and Senate in bipartisan votes passed a $36 billion fiscal 2018 spending plan and $5 billion income tax hike to avoid Illinois becoming the first-ever U.S. state whose credit is rated junk.

Rauner vetoed the trio of budget-related bills on Tuesday only to have that action quickly overridden by the Senate. The House will now attempt to follow suit and enact the budget and tax hike by overturning the governor's vetoes.

The governor said he is working to sustain his vetoes.

"I can tell you this,” Rauner told reporters on Chicago’s South side on Wednesday. “We are doing everything we can to push that my veto is not overridden. My veto should not be overridden.”

He lashed out at those who defied his wishes by voting for the Madigan-backed budget package, including 15 House Republicans.

"What we have is a continuing failure by elected officials in Springfield on both sides of the aisle that’s been led by Speaker Madigan for 35 years,” Rauner said. “This is more of the same. The system is broken.”

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin told Reuters that he and Rauner are attempting to persuade the House Republicans who offered pivotal support for the Democratic tax hike to reconsider their backing because “there’s a better deal to be had,” but Durkin stopped short of predicting he and the governor could block the overrides.

“I think the Democrats, if they want to get it done, find the votes,” Durkin said. “I’ve seen this before.”

Durkin said he had no plans to take any punitive actions against those Republicans for voting as they did, but predicted “it’s definitely a possibility” some will face primary challenges from the Republican Party’s anti-tax wing in the 2018 elections.

Illinois has relied on court-ordered and state-mandated spending to keep operating over the past two fiscal years. The lack of a fiscal 2018 budget shut down major transportation projects and forced the state out of the lucrative Powerball and Mega Millions lotteries.

Meanwhile, long waits for state bill payments forced some social service providers to drastically scale back operations.

Additional reporting by Julia Jacobs in Chicago; Editing by Matthew Lewis

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