Illinois Democrats poised to defy governor’s budget veto threat

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. Illinois’ long-running budget stalemate was set to spill into the summer on Monday, as Democratic lawmakers worked to pass a 2017 spending plan that Republican Governor Bruce Rauner has threatened to veto, possibly jeopardizing public schools re-opening in August.

As a midnight Tuesday deadline to pass legislation approaches, Rauner and his Democratic rivals who control the state legislature reported no headway toward ending the 11-month long dispute that has left Illinois as the only state without a full operating budget for the current fiscal year.

The second-year governor says the budget is $7 billion short on revenues. He has insisted that the budget should be tied to a series of labor-weakening, business-friendly changes that Democrats argue will harm the state’s working class.

In recent weeks, legislative working groups convened by Rauner have tried to bridge differences between the governor and top Democrats.

Rauner and the Democratic legislative leaders met for less than a half hour on Monday with House Speaker Michael Madigan declaring plans to keep his legislative chamber in session during June, when a tougher three-fifths majority vote is required to pass a budget.

“My view is that if there’s no agreement (Tuesday) night, I would ask the governor to keep his working groups functioning on a regular schedule because the House is going to be in continuous session,” Madigan told reporters after the meeting.

Senate President John Cullerton signaled his chamber could vote on a budget bill passed by the House last week, or on an alternative plan he declined to outline. He also said he was trying to round up votes for the House budget bill.

“[Tuesday] would be a good day to call it,” Cullerton said.

Republican legislative leaders slammed Democrats for their refusal to accept pieces of Rauner’s non-budgetary agenda or offer revenue sources to pay for their spending plan.

“They’re just forcing a tax increase. That’s what they’re doing,” said Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno, adding that Democrats plan a post-November election tax hike vote.

Contained within the Democratic spending package is a $760 million increase in funding for Illinois’ public-school system for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

A complete Rauner veto of the package would mean schools would be left without adequate state funding in August when schools are set to open for the fall, a gambit Cullerton predicted the governor could not risk.

(Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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