Senate Leaders Hope To Get “Grand Bargain” On Budget Passed This Week

CHICAGO (CBS) — Illinois state lawmakers are returning to Springfield this week, and Senate President John Cullerton said he and his Republican counterpart hope to pass the framework for a true end to the 18-month budget stalemate.

Cullerton said he’s meeting with his Democratic caucus to go over the plan he and Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno have crafted to resolve the budget impasse, and he’s hopeful progress will continue.

He told the City Club of Chicago on Monday he’s not even thinking about whether House Speaker Michael Madigan or Gov. Bruce Rauner will approve.

“We haven’t talked to the House, we haven’t talked to the governor about this whole package. We’re working together with the Senate to see if we can pass a bill. It would be premature to talk to them, because we don’t even know if we can pass it,” Cullerton said.

The so-called grand bargain would include an income tax hike, new taxes on services like dry cleaning, changes to workers’ compensation and state employee pension funds, a temporary property tax freeze, six new casinos, consolidation of some local governments, and spending cuts.

A measure to increase the state’s minimum wage has been removed, but Cullerton said the finishing touches are being put on a plan to change how the state distributes money to public schools.

“We just finished the details of it this weekend, and I believe it’s something that I believe will be politically palatable to just about everybody in the state. We have the worst, most unfair funding formula in the nation. Everybody agrees with that,” he said.

Cullerton said he expects some senators to have problems with the revenue package, and others to raise issues with pension reform measures, workers’ compensation changes, and more.

“You just have to provide leadership, and leadership is not getting people to vote for easy votes,” he said. “It’s getting people to vote for stuff that they don’t really want to vote for.”

Cullerton hopes to call a vote on some or all of the deal by week’s end.

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