Illinois Lawmakers Can't Agree on Budget

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By Fanna Haile-Selassie

WSIL -- The budget battle continues in Springfield, as house lawmakers reject a plan that does not include extending the income tax hike. That $34 billion budget proposal included deep cuts to education and social services.

Only five lawmakers actually voted for it, including House Speaker Mike Madigan and Representative John Bradley. The problem is there's also no support for a budget that includes an income tax extension. It's a situation that no lawmaker facing re-election this year wants to deal with.    
 
"That has put the legislature squarely in the box that they haven't figured out how to get out of," says Charlie Leonard with the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.
 
He anticipates a bandaid solution until the lame duck session, after the election. That's when lawmakers will be a little more willing to make the tough votes. Leonard says the outcome of the governor's race could also play a role.
 
"Some people believe that if Bruce Rauner wins the governorship, then they'll let the tax increase fail, which Rauner says he's for, and let him deal with the budget consequences," explains Leonard.
 
Representative John Bradley doesn't agree, "I don't even know how you do a partial-year budget. People talk about that, but I think a lot of times, they don't really know what they're talking about it."
 
He says $34.5 billion is all the money the state has as of now, but some of his colleagues don't want to accept that.
 
"The legislature has to come to the reality which there's not support for the tax increase at this time," Bradley said.
 
Representative Mike Bost says he won't vote for any of the current bills, because republicans never got a say at the negotiation table. And he has no doubt House Speaker Mike Madigan hasn't showed all his cards just yet.
 
"They said they don't have enough votes to pass the tax increase. I've been here 20 years and I have never known Mike Madigan to walk away with 34 votes for something he wants to move," says Bost.
 
Leonard says lawmakers aren't showing any political courage. If democrats really want the income tax extension, it wouldn't be hard to do.
 
"What is the point of so severely gerrymandering the legislature that your team can't lose, if they won't make the hard decisions and they probably won't lose anyway."
 
Both the House and Senate are scheduled to work Monday, Memorial Day. The legislative session ends a week from Saturday, but lawmakers have already canceled their session, so they'll have to wrap up the budget by next Friday.
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