Illinois Enters 3rd Year Without Budget; But New Hope Emerges For End To Impasse

CHICAGO (CBS) — Illinois still doesn’t have a budget, but with the fiscal year ending at midnight Friday night, there’s something extraordinary out of Springfield: renewed hope of an agreement on end to the historic stalemate.

On Saturday, the state will begin its third year without a full balanced budget, but there’s new hope of a bipartisan resolution in the next few days.

What was billed as deadline day on Friday began with a test vote on House Democrats’ $36 billion spending proposal, and a warning that failure carried dire consequences.

“Everyone knows today that we’re standing here today, staring into an abyss,” said Rep. Greg Harris, a top budget negotiator for House Democrats. “Today is our make-or-break day.”

In a surprise development, House Republicans rose to back a key vote on the spending plan.

“We’re going to save our state. We’re going to save our state together,” Rep. Steve Anderson (R-Geneva) said, wearing a blue tie in a show of solidarity with Democrats.

Democrats and Republicans alike stood to applaud Anderson’s floor speech.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin pledged to put Republican votes on the plan.

“Not just to get passage, but to bring us past 71,” he said.

The measure passed, 90 to 25; a sign many Republicans might be ready for a solution, regardless of what Gov. Bruce Rauner wants.

“I think it’s a good step forward, a step that we can build upon. There’s much work yey to be done,” House Speaker Mike Madigan said.

While acknowledging the state would begin its third fiscal year without a budget, Madigan sent a letter to the three big New York bond houses, asking them not to drop Illinois’ credit rating to junk status.

“I would ask that your agency temporarily withhold judgment and allow legislators time to negotiate a bipartisan, balanced budget,” the speaker’s letters asked.

Madigan said the House would reconvene Saturday to continue budget negotiations. Both sides said it’s past time to forge a deal. Meantime, he said Democrats and Republicans would get together to finalize the spending plan to make sure they can send a balanced budget back to the Senate for a final vote.

“Illinois is in such a crisis, we needed to come together in a bipartisan fashion to move something forward,” Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea said.

The Illinois Senate already has passed its own budget plan, and now is waiting on the House to send back a final budget that can go to the governor.

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