State Senate Begins Voting On ‘Grand Bargain’

Illinois Senate chamber.

View of the Illinois Senate chamber at the Illinois Statehouse in Springfield.

CC/Daniel Schwen/Wikimedia Commons

There were mixed results Wednesday in Springfield, when Illinois Senate Democrats went ahead with voting on nine measures that are part of the so-called “grand bargain”. It's been widely seen as the best hope for ending Illinois' nearly two-year budget stalemate.

Seven of the nine measures passed the Senate mostly on majority Democrats' votes, and were sent on to the House. 

The idea was for Democrats and Republicans to come together to meet Gov. Bruce Rauner’s demands — like a property tax freeze and more business-friendly laws.


Senate Approves But Doesn’t Implement Budget Bill

The Illinois Senate approved a $36.5 billion budget that was initiated by minority Republicans. But it turned down authority to implement it. 

The Democratic-controlled chamber voted 31-21 Wednesday to approve the proposed outlay for the year that begins July 1. 

The vote looked like a breakthrough after five months of wrangling over the so-called ``grand bargain'' budget compromise. 

But it was quickly followed by a vote on authority to implement the budget. It failed by three votes, 27-24. 

The budget proposal was introduced by Assistant Republican Leader Bill Brady of Bloomington. Senate President John Cullerton of Chicago put the plan up for a vote. He urged action because of frustration over lack of progress. 

The plan would spend about $1 billion less than the one Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner proposed. Democrats boasted the two sides had negotiated $3.7 billion in spending cuts. 

The state has been without an annual budget since 2015.

Temporary Tax Freeze Bill Fails

Earlier on Wednesday, the Illinois Senate rejected a two-year property tax freeze. 

The Democratic offer to meet Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's demand for tax relief for local homeowners is another one of the measures that is part of the ``grand bargain'' budget compromise. Disagreements between Democrats, who control the General Assembly, and Rauner has kept the state from having an annual spending plan for two years. 

 The vote was 32-11 in favor of the temporary tax freeze. But it required an extraordinary majority of 36 votes because it would overrule home-rule governance for larger cities. 

Rauner had insisted on a permanent property tax freeze. Property taxes are the primary way public schools are funded. 

Republicans had suggested recently they'd be willing to accept a temporary freeze. But Rauner and GOP senators rejected only a two-year freeze. 

“Things That Aren’t Agreed To Yet”

There was bipartisan support on a handful of bills — like     to allow more casino licenses and change state purchasing rules.

But Republicans, like Sen. Chapin Rose of Mahomet, say they need more time to negotiate on things like the budget and a property tax freeze.

“There are things that aren’t agreed to yet,” said Rose, “and they need to be agreed to. And the details — that you just said will come later — are really important as to whether this works or not."

Democratic Senate President John Cullerton, say time is running out.

“Do you really think it’s going to get any better?” said Cullerton. “Seriously?"

Less than two weeks remain in the spring legislative session.

Story source: AP