News Local/State

No Outward Signs Of Budget Progress, But Negotiations Continue

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin addresses Statehouse reporters earlier this month.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin addresses Statehouse reporters earlier this month. Brian Mackey/NPR Illinois

Just two days remain until the end of Illinois’ budget year. There were no outward signs of progress Wednesday, but Republicans and Democrats say they’re still talking.

Democrats in the Illinois House voted on several of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s priorities, like a property tax freeze. But they were the Democratic versions of those ideas, and Republicans say they don’t go far enough.

That all seemed to be mostly for show. As ever in Springfield, the real action was behind closed doors, where top Republicans and Democrats were meeting.

The House and Senate leaders — Democratic and Republican — went all year without sitting down together. That finally changed Sunday, and they've been meeting regularly since.

They’ve also been coming out and holding news conferences to complain about each other — until Wednesday, when they went quiet.

Later, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin spoke briefly in the Statehouse rotunda.

“Every day that we meet, we talk. And we can agree and disagree, but I’m not getting into specifics," Durkin said. "But I’ll say the meeting was — I found it productive.”

It may not sound like he’s saying much — and he’s not. But at the Capitol, it can be a sign of progress when party leaders don’t say much to the press. It could mean they don’t want to upset their negotiations.

“We’re still working and meeting and meeting again tomorrow, so that’s all good news,” said Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno.

Radogno was asked if she was more or less optimistic about the chances of a deal this week.

“Nobody came out swinging, so that’s a good thing.”

Gov. Bruce Rauner has mostly been quiet during these negotiations. But he issued a statement saying he’d keep lawmakers in special session until a budget is passed.