- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 19, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The latest on activities in Springfield as Gov. Bruce Rauner spends Governor’s Day at the Illinois State Fair and action by the Senate on legislation, including overriding several Rauner vetoes:

7 p.m.

Senate Democrats have given final approval to a plan to release $373 million in state funds to help students pay for college.

Lawmakers voted 37-0 to authorize spending for the Monetary Award Program. Democrats casting all the “yes” votes, sending the bill to the House. Republicans voted “present.”

Democratic Sen. Dan Kotowski says the grants will help about 130,000 students afford college.

Students who qualify for the grants haven’t received money because of the budget impasse.

Republicans say they support the grant program. But Republican Sen. Matt Murphy says Democrats are “making promises they can’t keep” by approving spending at levels Illinois can’t afford.

Public four-year universities have said they’ll front the money to students but that they can’t continue to do so beyond fall semester.

The bill is SB2043.

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6:35 p.m.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has criticized state senators who voted in favor of legislation that could give labor contract negotiations to an arbitrator.

The Republican governor says those who voted to override his veto on the measure “chose special interests over the taxpayers.” He says the bill could force the state to raise income taxes.

The bill prohibits a union strike or a government worker lockout. An impasse in negotiations between Rauner and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees could be turned over to an arbitrator.

Supporters who voted 38-15 for the override say it’s a fair process that encourages compromise. Rauner says it strips taxpayers of the power to negotiate.

The last contract expired June 30. There has been little progress on a new agreement.

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6:20 p.m.

The Illinois Senate has approved legislation to give a third-party arbitrator the ultimate power to decide the outcome of state labor-contract negotiations despite Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto.

The Democratic-controlled Senate voted 38-15 to override the Republican governor’s veto. It would prohibit a union strike or a government lockout in case of an impasse. An arbitrator would then decide the matter.

Rauner is negotiating with 36,000 members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees on a contract to replace the pact that expired June 30.

Labor fears Rauner is trying to force a strike. Rauner has pledged not to impose a lockout and continues to negotiate, but little progress has been made.

The House must also override the veto with a three-fifths majority vote before it becomes law.

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6 p.m.

The Illinois Senate has approved House changes to legislation that opens the gate for $5.4 billion in federal money to flow to Illinois.

The Senate voted 52-0 Wednesday to OK additions the House made to the plan, which allows spending on social programs even though there’s no state budget.

The issue momentarily became a focus last week of the budget disagreement between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democratic-controlled General Assembly.

The money is available as soon as lawmakers authorize spending it. They hadn’t done that because they hadn’t agreed on a state budget that was supposed to take effect July 1.

House Speaker Michael Madigan attempted to add some state spending authority to a Senate plan last week, but then backed off.

Rauner supports the measure.

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5 p.m.

Democrats have advanced legislation to provide funding to help students pay for college despite having no state budget.

The Senate executive committee voted 11-0 Wednesday to authorize spending $373 million for the Monetary Award Program. Republicans voted “present.”

Democratic Sen. Dan Kotowski says lawmakers shouldn’t let a “sideshow” over the budget hurt students.

Southern Illinois University President Randy Dunn says Illinois’ public four-year colleges are advancing the grant amounts to eligible students during the budget stalemate. But he says students may be on the hook for the money if lawmakers don’t agree on a budget.

Dunn says that’s causing “palpable anxiety” for students and parents.

Republicans say they support the idea of the grants but say the “piecemeal” approach to spending has Illinois on track to spend too much.

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3:30 p.m.

A spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan says Gov. Bruce Rauner, not the Chicago Democrat, is “Mr. Cut” and responsible for slashing social services because there’s no agreement on a yearlong state spending plan.

Rauner told reporters at the state fair that Madigan “has ice water in his veins,” inured to reductions in programs such as subsidized day care for working parents. Hundreds of protesters opposing the changes attempted to shout down GOP speakers.

Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said the reduced spending is Rauner’s doing.

Brown says, “The only cuts that were done were by the governor, so if the guy wants to look about for who’s responsible for cuts, he should just stare right in the mirror, and that mug he sees coming back at him is ‘Mr. Cut.’”

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2:20 p.m.

Gov. Bruce Rauner says the Republican party in Illinois is “coming back.”

Rauner spoke during the first Republican Governor’s Day at the Illinois State Fair in more than a decade. He says Democrats have “created a mess” during years of one-party rule.

Rauner’s harshest words were for House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Rauner blamed Madigan for cuts to social services, saying the Chicago Democrat “has ice water in his veins.” He also says Madigan “picked a fight with the wrong guy.”

A spokesman for Madigan didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Senate is scheduled to return to the Capitol later Wednesday. Majority Democrats are expected to override up to seven Rauner vetoes, including one of a union-related bill the governor has called the worst legislation he’s seen.

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12:40 p.m.

Hundreds of union members protested Gov. Bruce Rauner and other Republicans as they rally at the Illinois State Fair.

Rauner arrived at the fairgrounds on his Harley motorcycle for Wednesday’s Governor’s Day events. He was greeted by protesters, many members of the SEIU Healthcare Illinois union. An SEIU spokesman said 500 picketers attended.

Marya Broadway of Calumet Park says Rauner has “knocked a lot of people off of child care.” She says some parents are being forced to quit their jobs.

Rauner’s administration implemented tougher eligibility requirements for low-income people to get subsidized child care.

Rauner says the cuts are needed to manage the ongoing budget crisis stalemate. He told reporters that House Speaker Michael Madigan is to blame for the cuts to child care assistance and other programs.

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11:14 a.m.

Illinois Republican leaders say they’re solidly backing U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk’s bid for a second term.

Kirk was scheduled to appear in Springfield on Wednesday for Governor’s Day events at the Illinois State Fair. But his campaign said he couldn’t attend because he’s participating in a briefing regarding President Obama’s proposed Iran deal.

It’s unusual for the candidate at the top of the ticket not to attend the fair’s political events.

Illinois GOP Chairman Tim Schneider says Kirk “shouldn’t be campaigning when there’s work to be done.” He says the party’s support for Kirk is “unwavering.”

Kirk’s race is expected to be one of the most competitive 2016 contests. Democrats who are trying to win control of the Senate point to recent gaffes as evidence the Illinois Republican is vulnerable.

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9:28 a.m.

Gov. Bruce Rauner says his goal is for Republicans to be the majority party in the Illinois Legislature within eight years.

The GOP governor spoke Wednesday at a meeting of the state’s Republican Central Committee in Springfield. Later Wednesday he’s scheduled to lead a rally for the annual Governor’s Day at the Illinois State Fair.

Rauner says many of Illinois’ troubles - from the ongoing budget mess to a reputation for political corruption - are the result of too many years of one-party rule. He says House Speaker Michael Madigan and other Democrats - who hold supermajorities in both chambers - are standing in the way of change Illinois needs.

Rauner says he plans to recruit and support strong GOP candidates in hopes of winning control of the Legislature.

Madigan and other Democrats say Rauner’s proposals will hurt working people. Democrats will hold their rally at the fair Thursday.

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This story has been corrected to reflect the number of protesters the SEIU Healthcare union said were at the rally and to show legislation approved by the Senate would authorize spending $5.4 billion in federal funds, not $5.2 billion.


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