- Associated Press - Monday, May 25, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois Democrats announced a budget plan Monday that they say calls for spending more than $3 billion beyond what the state anticipates bringing in, setting up a summer showdown with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has insisted that pro-business reforms accompany any tax hike.

During a news conference, House Speaker Michael Madigan said Democrats’ roughly $36.3 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that begins in July avoids about $5 billion in cuts Rauner proposed in his budget address in February. Madigan says the Legislature is committed to “work with the governor” to raise the funds needed to protect vulnerable residents.

“Our plan is to pass a budget this week for the next fiscal year that takes a balanced, responsible approach,” Madigan said.

Democrats in both chambers began drafting the plan following weeks of private working group meetings between lawmakers and the governor’s administration on elements of Rauner’s “Turnaround Agenda,” which Republican leaders filed as legislation last week. Some bills would impose term limits on lawmakers, freeze property taxes, tweak workers’ compensation policies and make it tougher for people to file lawsuits against businesses. House Democrats, meanwhile, have spent weeks holding a series of symbolic votes to show how little support exists for elements of Rauner’s plan.

“Attempting to tie the passage of a responsible state budget to issues unrelated to the budget … tells middle-class families they are negotiating tools, not priorities,” Madigan said.

Even before Madigan’s news conference announcing the budget, Rauner’s press secretary, Lance Trover, issued a statement criticizing Democrats for walking away from the negotiating table and refusing to compromise on the Rauner-backed reforms.

“The speaker and his allies in the legislature are sorely mistaken if they believe the people of Illinois will accept doubling down on a broken system that has failed Illinois over the last dozen years,” Trover wrote.

The stalemate stems from the first divided Illinois government in 12 years.

Rauner, a wealthy private equity executive, spent recent months traveling the state and demanding Democrats approve his priorities before he considers raising taxes to help fill the estimated $6 billion revenue hole in the budget. If not, Rauner has presented spending plan that balances the state budget entirely by slashing money for programs and services. The Democratic-led Legislature objects to the deep cuts in social programs. It has the power to pass a budget with Democratic priorities, and they could choose not to consider Rauner’s proposals.

Nine pieces of the budget were filed by House Democrats Monday, with some portions, including Democrats’ spending plan for elementary and secondary education, still outstanding. Madigan told reporters that cuts would be made throughout the budget, to human services and higher education. But Madigan also said spending would increase for K-12 education, and for the department of corrections, while the state’s obligation to fund its pension systems would be made in full next year under the plan.

Senate President John Cullerton’s spokesman, Rikeesha Phelon, noted that Cullerton has “publicly invited Republicans to file amendments to cut the budget if they disagree with the priorities funded in the plan.”

By law, the Legislature has until May 31 to pass a budget. If it goes into overtime, a special three-fifths vote is required for approval. In turn, Rauner has the ability to sign, reject or amend the Legislature’s plan it presents him.

The General Assembly went into overtime under Rauner’s two Democratic predecessors, former Gov. Pat Quinn and now imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, but impasses were resolved before checks needed to be sent out to schools beginning their academic year.

Republican opponents of the plan called the Democrat-led process an “atrocity.”

“You do the revenue and the spending. That’s what a budget is,” House Republican floor leader Ron Sandack said.

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The bills are HB 4146-48, HB4153-54, HB4158-60 and HB4165.

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Associated Press Writer Nick Swedberg contributed.

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