News Local/State

Ammons, Bennett Talk Budget At Town Hall Meeting

State Representative Carol Ammons of Urbana

State Representative Carol Ammons (D-Urbana) makes her closing remarks Monday night at a town hall meeting at the Carpenters' Local 243 Hall in Champaign. Brian Moline/Illinois Public Media

More than 100 people filled the Carpenters' Local 243 Hall in Champaign to get an update on the budget impasse, and ask questions of State Representative Carol Ammons (D-Urbana) and State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign).

Bennett said the so-called “grand bargain” budget deal isn’t dead, but it’s in trouble.

He said Senate Democrats are frustrated that Republican Governor Bruce Rauner told Senate Republicans to pull their support for all of the bills in the budget package.

Bennnett said that’s why senate Democrats spent last week asking Rauner’s agency directors for places they could find budget cuts.

"”The governor says we need to find more cuts. Where can I cut your agency?" Bennett said. "You know what every single one of them said? ‘Are you crazy?’”

He says that his caucus will continue to negotiate with Senate Republicans, although there has been no progress since the grand bargain lost all Republican support two weeks ago.

State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) answers a question during a town hall meeting Monday night at the Carpenters' Local 243 Hall in Champaign.

Brian Moline/Illinois Public Media

Meanwhile, Ammons said talk that House Speaker Michael Madigan would refuse to allow votes on budget bills passed by the Senate has been blown out of proportion.

"He will not stop it because there are members in the House, like in the Senate, that want to bring this to a close," Ammons said. "So, if the Senate sent those bills over last week, they would have gone to committee."

But Ammons also said that those bills could be changed in House committees in order to gain the 60 votes needed for passage in that chamber.

Most of the questions from the crowd in the hour-long meeting were about the budget or the impasse in negotiations between Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and AFSCME, the largest state employees union in the state.