- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 16, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Gov. Bruce Rauner launched television ads blasting House Speaker Michael Madigan and other Illinois Democrats as unwilling to cut spending as state legislators returned to Springfield on Tuesday in an overtime session amid a budget stalemate.

The ads - which also criticize Democrats as only interested in raising taxes - are paid for by a committee created to support the Republican governor’s agenda. Rauner and billionaire businessman Sam Zell, who put in $4 million, have been its donors.

Lawmakers are at an impasse over a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Democrats approved a plan that’s at least $3 billion short of revenues and want Rauner to consider new taxes. Lawmakers allowed a temporary income tax approved in 2011 to roll back in January. But Rauner, who campaigned against extending the tax increase, says he won’t sign the budget until Democrats approve measures he says will create jobs.

“Mike Madigan and the politicians he controls refuse to change. They’re saying ‘no’ to spending discipline, ‘no’ to job-creating economic reforms, ‘no’ to term limits,” a voice in the ad says as a picture of Madigan flashes on the screen. “All they want is higher taxes, again.”

Madigan dismissed the ads as “non-budget issue” and told reporters Tuesday his chamber was ready to meet in “continuous session” all summer to work with Rauner.

“That TV ad takes this to the extreme, takes away from moderation,” Madigan said. “The number one problem facing the state of Illinois is the budget deficit and the elimination of that budget deficit will only be done in moderation, not in the extreme. And any actions by anybody in the extreme are not helpful.”

Other Democrats called the ads unhelpful.

“We need to be focusing on actually getting a budget put in place,” said Sen. Heather Steans, a Chicago Democrat. “We need to provide fiscal stability and security.”

But there were few hints of progress on the budget Tuesday as lawmakers gathered for the lackluster session. Attendance was visibly down from regular session, with several lawmakers wearing Blackhawks jerseys to celebrate the team’s Stanley Cup win the evening before. And Madigan, who called a solo news conference while his session was still meeting, said he couldn’t recall the last time he spoke to Rauner about the budget.

Aside from votes on more minor bills, both chambers largely met as committees of the whole, meaning they discussed issues but didn’t take votes. The Senate took up the affordability of higher education. The House heard testimony on a proposal to privatize the state’s economic development agency.

Rauner, who has been traveling the state to promote his agenda, did not make any public appearances Tuesday.

“Change in Springfield isn’t easy but you didn’t send me here to do what’s easy,” he says in the ad. “With your help, I’m going to keep fighting to grow our economy and fix our broken state government.”

Lawmakers plan to meet twice more this month ahead of the start of the next fiscal year.

Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger has warned that without a budget in place by the end of the month, she won’t be able to do her job of writing the state’s checks to make most of the state’s payments to vendors or state employees.


Follow Sophia Tareen at https://twitter.com/sophiatareen .


Associated Press writer Sara Burnett contributed to this report from Chicago.

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