illinois state budget 050710
Illinois lawmakers work on legislation while on the House floor during session at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield on Thursday. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman) Seth Perlman

SPRINGFIELD — Democrats who control the Illinois House and Senate hoped to have their business wrapped up Friday night.

But, political posturing over the state’s fiscal meltdown brought efforts to craft a budget to a halt.

Rather than keep restless rank-and-file lawmakers in town for another day, legislative leaders said they’ll have to return for another run at a spending plan later this month.

“We’ll be back one more time. I can’t tell you what day that will be,” said Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago.

The sticking points Friday are the same sticking points that have helped push the state into a financial tailspin.

Republicans, who are hoping to pick up Democratic seats in November, were unwilling to support plans to raise taxes or borrow money to help keep the state afloat.

At the same time, lawmakers signaled they were in no mood to make major cuts to state programs.

The Democrat-controlled Senate approved a proposal to delay $3.7 billion in pension payments and signed off on legislation giving Gov. Pat Quinn extraordinary powers to manage scant state resources.

“The only budget we have is this budget. Is it a nice budget? Of course not. It’s not nice because we don’t have enough money to pay for our basic services,” Cullerton said

Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan declared an impasse after similar proposals failed in the House.

“People are just not accepting reality,” said state Rep. Mike Boland, D-East Moline. “We’ve got to move in one direction or another.”

Republicans blamed Democrats for the breakdown.

“These people cannot lead, and they proved that this session,” said state Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth

The Senate version of the budget does little to immediately address the state’s budget gap, which has left state vendors, universities and school districts scrambling for dollars while they wait for the state to pay its bills.

Instead, it relies on a series of one-time revenue sources and financial maneuvers that will allow the state to continue operating until after the November election.

For example, lawmakers set up a system to get an upfront payment of about $1 billion from the state’s share of a national tobacco settlement. They also approved a tax amnesty plan designed to let tax scofflaws pay back an estimated $250 million in back taxes without have to pay penalties.

The plan also gives Quinn the ability to skim money from special state funds in order to meet payroll and other operational costs. Republicans blasted giving Quinn more power, saying the current year’s budget deficit has expanded under Quinn’s control.

“This is our job, not the governor’s job,” said state Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon.

“This is building a mountain of debt that will burden our children and grandchildren,” said state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington, the Republican candidate for governor.

But, Democrats said GOP lawmakers, including Brady, never made clear what kinds of programs they would cut to help balance the budget.

“The Republicans said, ‘no, no, no,’ they’re not going to do nothing,” state Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg. “If we don’t do something, there is going to be a lot of services that are going to shut down. There is going to be a lot of facilities that close.”

Quinn said he was hopeful a compromise could be worked out.

“I think we’ll get to a very good place with the members of the legislature on the budget,” Quinn said. “It’s never an easy process.”


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