News Local/State

Democrats Advance Their Budget, Vote Down Rauner Budget


Hannah Meisel/WILL

Illinois Democrats advanced more of their budget Wednesday, despite the $3 billion deficit it would create. 

Sen. Matt Murphy (R-Palatine) says it's simple math.

"You propose to spend $36.3 billion dollars, and you will have approximately $33 billion dollars in revenue. How does it possibly square with the plain language in the Constitution?"

Murphy's referring to a requirement that spending match revenue. It's not like Illinois hasn't done it before...budget imbalances for years have added up into billions of dollars in bill backlogs and late payments.

But Democrats, like Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) say the budget could be cut by Gov. Bruce Rauner...or get bolstered by a tax increase down the road.

"We clearly need to talk tax reform as well," she said. "And I think this investment plan speaks to that need in this state." 

Steans cited reports like the Chicago-based watchdog group The Civic Federation, and even Gov. Rauner's previous admissions the state may need more revenue after the Jan. 1 rollback of a 2011 income tax hike.

The Democratic budget bills were pushed through the Senate right after the majority party voted down legislation containing Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposed budget cuts.

An additional slap in the face for Rauner: The governorspent most of the past four months traveling around Illinois, touting his so-called "Turnaround Agenda." Some of his requests, like allowing localities to create right-to-work zones, faced an uphill battle from the beginning. But other items, like term limits, have been popular with voters since the governor ran on them last year.

Now Democrats, who control the state legislature, refuse to bring a term limit proposal to a vote, saying it's a distraction from passing a state budget before the weekend's deadline.

Senator Jason Barickman, a Republican from Bloomington, says he disagrees.

"What does term limits have to do with the budget?" he asked "The fact that we're in this problem because of the decisions made by the career politicians here and next door...adopting term limits gets rid of the people like Speaker Madigan, who quite frankly has been in office--

Barickman was cut off by the Democratic chair in debate: "Senator Barickman, I have given a lot of leeway today. To the budget."

Democrats point out there’s plenty of time -- instituting term limits would require asking voters if they want to change the constitution. The next opportunity to put that question on the ballot more than a year away.

Earlier this month, Democrats forced other parts of Rauner’s agenda — like a statewide property tax freeze and right-to-work zones -- to a vote. They were overwhelmingly voted down.