- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 8, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Gov. Bruce Rauner said Wednesday he is willing to raise taxes if the General Assembly agrees to his alterations of the Illinois legal and political landscape, but he nixed the idea of a stop-gap funding plan before Democratic lawmakers even teed it up.

The Republican made his most explicit promise on trading his agenda for a tax hike while speaking to reporters outside his state Capitol office. He announced what he called compromises on his plans to make the Prairie State friendlier to business and wring the corruption out of politics.

Democrats were unimpressed. Neither they nor Rauner was on a path that seemed likely to converge soon.

The 2016 fiscal year is more than a week old and there’s still no authority for state government to pay bills. For months, Democrats have been behind a $36 billion spending plan they say covers “vital services” but which would outspend anticipated revenue by as much as $4 billion.

They want more revenue, but Rauner says he won’t talk taxes until he gets approval for such changes as limiting liability lawsuit payouts and restricting compensation for injured workers to promote business investment and job-creation.

Rauner had a retort when reminded Wednesday that his opponents say those initiatives cut into Democrats’ “core beliefs.”

“I don’t like taxes, period. I don’t want to ever raise taxes. I’m willing to do it as part of reform,” the conservative businessman said. “I’m willing to do something that goes against my core beliefs. I can ask the folks on the other side of the aisle to vote for some things they’d rather not vote for.”

Later, the House Executive Committee readied for a Thursday floor vote a $2.3 billion short-term budget, allowing the state to get through July while talks continue. Rauner dismissed it as “a mistake” that just creates the Democrats’ “$4 billion deficit one month at a time.”

The legislation’s sponsor, Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, rebuffed the notion, saying it covered only police protection and other emergency function and services that “are provided in many cases by organizations that don’t have the wherewithal to wait around and see if the state will finally pay the bill.”

Currie said Rauner is “holding hostage” critical operations while he tries to force conversation on his “turnaround agenda,” whittled to five key changes and that include a property-tax freeze, term limits and unbiased political redistricting.

He signaled for the first time he might settle for less than all. Asked whether the Legislature must approve his measures or just put them up for votes, Rauner said, “They need to pass some of them.”

Rauner’s compromise would include looser demands for restrictions on how liability lawsuits may proceed, for example. He added to his workers’ compensation and property-tax freeze proposals suggestions from Chicago Democratic Senate President John Cullerton. And he offered up an overhauled plan for cutting state and local pension liabilities, although he said they’re not tied to budget negotiations.

But basic tenets - such as more explicit proof that workers’ compensation is justified by an injury’s link to the workplace - remain unchanged. Cullerton spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon lamented that the alterations appear superficial.

“It’s sort of amazing he hasn’t yet recognized how total unpersuasive he’s been on these issues,” added Steve Brown, spokesman for Chicago Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan.

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The budget bill is SB2040.

Online: https://www.ilga.gov

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Associated Press writer Sara Burnett contributed from Chicago.

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Contact Political Writer John O’Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor


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