Legislators vote on 'Grand Bargain' budget bills - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Legislators vote on 'Grand Bargain' budget bills

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WSIL -- When it comes to approving a budget, Illinois lawmakers appear to be closer than they've been in nearly two years. Even so, there's still a lot of uncertainty.

On Wednesday, the state senate voted on several bills intended to help fix the state's fiscal crisis. 

The Senate approved a $36.5 billion budget that was initiated by minority Republicans, however it turned down authority to implement it.

Lawmakers also passed a bill to let the state borrow $7 billion to pay down the backlog of bills, which is now estimated at $14.3 billion and approved a measure giving counties the power to consolidate local government units.

They failed to pass a two-year property tax freeze.

The bills made up the so-called "Grand Bargain" and were originally supposed to be considered together, meaning if one failed, they all failed.

But Senate Democrats uncoupled the bills, letting each measure pass or fail on its own.

A few hours before the senate voted, Republican senators described negotiations as "fluid." 

"It's no easy task to get to a solution where both sides can live with solutions in a number of different areas," said State. Sen. Karen McConnaughay, the Republican Caucus Whip.

During debate, some Republicans argued more time was needed on some of the bills, but Democrats said they could improve the legislation, as needed, after it passed.

"Because we're never going to come to the point where everybody agrees with what's in these bills. Most of us don't like any of this stuff," said State. Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Chicago Heights.

A measure to increase the state income tax is still expected to be introduced.

The bills must still be approved by the House.

Regular sessions ends on May 31st. 

After that, all spending bills will require a super-majority in order to pass.

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