- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 19, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois lawmakers signaled Tuesday they are far from agreement on a new state budget or Gov. Bruce Rauner’s pro-business agenda, raising the possibility the divided Legislature will be forced into an even more politically difficult summer overtime session.

Republican leaders Sen. Christine Radogno and Rep. Jim Durkin called a news conference to blast majority Democrats, accusing them of not seriously negotiating on Rauner priorities such as freezing property taxes and reducing workers’ compensation costs. They said Democrats continue to push for a tax increase to help balance next year’s budget, but said Rauner won’t consider approving new revenue unless Democrats give him some of the things he wants.

“They are not interested in reforms,” Durkin said of Democrats, who hold supermajorities in both chambers. “They just want a tax hike.”

Rikeesha Phelon, spokeswoman for Democratic Senate President John Cullerton, called the Republican assertions untrue. She said senators continue to attend bipartisan talks in an attempt to reach compromise on Rauner’s priorities. But she said the budget process shouldn’t be “held hostage” by the governor.

Steve Brown, spokesman for Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, fired back at Republicans for pushing an agenda he says hurts working people.

“I’m sure nobody seriously believed we’re going to dismantle decades of progress working families have made just because somebody’s showing a Power Point around the state,” Brown said, a reference to a Power Point presentation Rauner has frequently used to outline his agenda.

The back-and-forth came with less than two weeks before the Legislature’s spring session is scheduled to end, and with a new fiscal year set to begin on July 1.

If lawmakers don’t pass a budget by the May 31 deadline it will require “yes” votes from three-fifths of each chamber, rather than a simple majority - making it much tougher to get approval.

Phelon said legislators have a “constitutional duty” to approve a spending plan by the end of session. With their supermajorities, Democrats could send Rauner a budget without any Republican votes, but the governor could veto part or all of it.

The debate already has been highly political. Madigan has called votes on pieces of Rauner’s agenda, giving Democrats the floor to bash them and vote them down while also putting Republicans on the spot.

Durkin called the votes a “farce,” noting that the Democratic party - with Madigan as its chairman - already has begun sending mailers blasting some GOP legislators for their votes on issues such as property taxes. Brown countered that voters deserve to know where their legislators stands on issues.

A Republican-aligned political committee also has targeted some Illinois Democrats by sending a mailer to voters in their districts.

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