SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and leaders in the Illinois Legislature continued meetings Wednesday to negotiate a short-term budget deal during the state’s epic one-year stalemate.
Democratic state Senate President John Cullerton said Wednesday morning that offers and counteroffers have been exchanged, but didn’t give specifics as sessions continued amid new signs of optimism about a deal to keep the state operating without a full budget.
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. They’re also negotiating six-month funding for human services, higher education institutions, and state operations to cover overdue utility bills and repairs to state vehicles.
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.
The Legislature is meeting Wednesday for the first time since lawmakers adjourned May 31.
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