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SPRINGFIELD — If there ever was any momentum to get a state budget in place, it has evaporated heading into the second quarter of the state's fiscal year.

After meeting nearly once a week during the early months of the stalemate, the Illinois House schedule has gone from predictable to sporadic, with no session scheduled now until Oct. 20, followed by another one on Nov. 10.

The Senate, which has met less regularly than the House since the budget crisis began to escalate in June, is following a similar schedule.

And, for what could be the first time in modern state history, there will be no fall veto session this year, primarily because the House and Senate took up many of the governor's vetoes during the summer.

The lack of action to get a budget in place after three months of gridlock has some lawmakers itching to jump-start talks.

"I think we need an outcry from the rank-and-file lawmakers to the leaders to sit down and figure this out," state Rep. Sue Scherer, a Decatur Democrat said Tuesday.

A Republican counterpart agreed.

"As we move into fall I think you'll see some rank-and-file members calling for increased levels of discussions," said state Rep. Dan Brady of Bloomington. "There are pressure points everywhere, from child care services to higher education."

Brady, the ranking Republican on the House committee overseeing the budget for higher education, said the lack of a spending plan for the state's universities is taking a toll.

Southern Illinois University, for example, recently announced a series of a program cuts designed to ensure the institution can continue operating into the new year.

Eastern Illinois University saved about $10 million through a series of cost-cutting measures enacted in the summer, including employee furloughs, attrition and reductions to athletic programs.

"We know that this cannot go on like this," Brady said.

At issue is the Republican governor's insistence that Democrats approve a number of pro-business, anti-union proposals before he signs off on a tax increase designed to balance the budget.

Democrats have balked at the changes sought by Rauner, saying they would hurt the middle class.

"We can't give that up," Scherer said.

The stalemate has left the state without a spending blueprint amid a test of political wills between Rauner and longtime House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago.

Although Rauner could call the General Assembly back to the Capitol for a special session, a spokesman did not address that issue in response to questions Tuesday.

But spokesman Lance Trover said the governor is committed to his agenda.

"The governor remains optimistic that the majority party will work with him on passing reforms that will grow the economy and turn our state around," Trover said.

State Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, said he's spent much of the summer trying to remind voters of what Rauner and Republican supporters are trying to accomplish by overhauling state laws to make the state more competitive with its neighbors.

The impasse, Righter said, "is not senseless."

State Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, said voters also should not assume lawmakers are merely sitting around waiting for Rauner and the leaders to get busy.

"I'm vocal every day," Manar said. "I have phone calls with my colleagues every day."

But, Manar said, "Until the governor calls a leadership meeting I think the chances of any movement are slim to none."

Brady agreed, saying, "It's frustrating. It's disappointing. Some of the glimmers of hope I saw over the summer have faded." 

Follow Kurt Erickson on Twitter@Illinois_Stage


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