Senate leadership reveals state budget legislation package

Nora Shelly, City Editor

Leaders in the Illinois Senate presented a package of bills meant to help the General Assembly pass a budget on Monday.

Sen. President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) and Senate minority leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) negotiated a series of bills in recent weeks that were introduced Monday at the start of a two-day lame duck session.

Radogno said during a press conference Monday that the package of bills recommended term limits for legislative leaders. Cullerton said the proposal suggests leaders be allowed to serve in their positions for 10 more years. The package also addresses school funding and pension parity, Radogno said. It also includes an increase in the minimum wage and an income tax increase.

Additionally, the package addresses how to fund the rest of the fiscal year. A stopgap budget passed in June ran out at the end of 2016, leaving Illinois without a budget for the second time in as many years.

Radogno said they had made “tremendous progress” on budget issues.

“For the first time we’re acknowledging that we really do need to link the reforms, the revenue and the budget all together,” she said.

Radogno said Senate Republicans were reluctant to vote on any of the bills in the package before the new General Assembly is sworn in on Wednesday. Additionally, some members were only made aware of the package of bills on Monday.

Although Radogno and Cullerton chose to delay action, they said they would try to push the package through the Senate as quickly as possible. Radogno said the goal was to call the bills to vote by the end of the month. Bills will likely be assigned to committees starting the week of Jan. 24, Cullerton said.

The two sides are potentially close to an agreement, Cullerton said.

“We have realities to face,” he said. “I think the only way to solve our problems is to do it in a bipartisan fashion.”

Gov. Bruce Rauner said at a press conference Monday he was “optimistic” about the progress made.

Rauner said Radogno had informed him about the basics of the bill package previous to introducing them, but that he was not aware of many of the specifics.

“I’m optimistic that Democrats and Republicans are negotiating in good faith to come up with changes to our system so it’s not broken anymore,” he said. “They’re working on some really important things that can help us get a balanced budget for the long term.”

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