News Local/State

Democrats Pass ‘Compromise’ Spending Bill In Illinois House


The state of Illinois hasn't funded higher education or many social services, as a budget impasse continues. House lawmakers passed legislation Thursday to partially restore that money. But the political wrangling isn't done yet.

One measure (HB 2990) authorizes Illinois to spend $3.7 billion on community colleges and state universities, sends money to the EPA, and funds immigrant services respite care and mental health and rehabilitative services and addiction treatment. It passed on a vote of 70-43, with Jack Franks (D-Marengo) voting "present".

A second bill (HB 648) relaxes a requirement that transferred state money be repaid to their original funds within 18 months   -- a notion that Rauner has endorsed, to give him greater flexibility in transferring funds within the budget. It passed 61-52.

State Rep. Reggie Phillips (R-Charleston) broke party ranks by voting for the first, funding bill. He was listed as "not voting" for the 2nd bill, which would expand the governor's power to "sweep" funds.

The sponsor of the 2nd bill, House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago), cast the package as a compromise with Governor Bruce Rauner.

"It's not the best idea since sliced bread, but it is the governor's idea and I'm willing to give him the courtesy of a yes vote,” said Currie.

But Rauner and his fellow Republicans say that would only free up about $450 million --- not nearly enough to cover all of the spending. They call the legislation a sham – intended to put Republicans on the spot ahead of the March 15 primary.

House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Burr Ridge) also rejected the Democrats’ presentation of their bill as a compromise, not that it had just been introduced the night before, catching Republicans off guard.

“I’m waiting for you and your side of the aisle to work with us to try to find a compromise, not shoving a bill down our throats and the taxpayer’s throat which you’re doing right now,” said Durkin.

The measures passed on largely party-line vote

The package now heads to the Illinois Senate.

Democrats say after eight months without a budget, Illinois can’t wait any longer to fund important services.

(This story was expanded at 12:40 PM 3/4/16).