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Illinois Governor, Leaders Negotiating Stopgap Budget

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. ― Illinois lawmakers and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner were trying to craft a short-term budget deal Wednesday to ensure public schools open this fall and other services are funded while a fight over a full spending plan continues.

The House and Senate were expected to be in session Thursday with the expectation that they’ll have a budget deal to vote on, the day before the state is set to enter its second fiscal year without a spending plan.

Democratic state Senate President John Cullerton said Wednesday morning that offers and counteroffers were being exchanged but offered no specifics amid new signs of optimism about a deal.

Discussions have focused on getting full year funding for public schools, while providing money to other areas for six months, including higher education institutions and social service providers.

The talks come as lawmakers and the governor face increasing public pressure to end their gridlock. About a dozen Illinois newspapers used their front pages Wednesday to publish editorials demanding that Rauner and Democrats who control the Legislature pass a spending plan.

The governor and Democrats have been unable to agree on a budget, with Rauner demanding business-friendly, union-weakening laws as a condition for agreeing to a spending plan that would include a tax hike. Democrats say the governor’s conditions have nothing to do with the budget.

Illinois’ new fiscal year begins Friday. That’s when billions in patchwork spending that lawmakers approved for the current fiscal year ― including money for K-12 education ― will expire.

Senate Democrats and Republican leaders filed competing plans Tuesday aimed at keeping schools open this fall.

The major sticking point for lawmakers returning to Springfield has been how much to increase money for education, particularly Chicago Public Schools. Democrats filed legislation Tuesday that would send the district almost $400 million more next year, including money to help pay for teacher pensions. They say it’s a matter of fairness because the state covers pension costs for all other Illinois school districts.

Wednesday marked the first time lawmakers were in session since they adjourned their spring session May 31.


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