- Associated Press - Monday, May 25, 2015

CHICAGO (AP) - A standoff between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democrats who control the Illinois Legislature is threatening to derail action on a long list of issues as lawmakers enter the final days of their spring session.

At the center of the fight are the 2016 state budget and a package of legislation that Rauner wants approved but Democrats oppose.

Democrats, who hold supermajorities in both chambers, want a tax increase to help erase a roughly $6 billion deficit in the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Rauner and other GOP lawmakers say they’re open to raising taxes, but only if the General Assembly first passes his legislative priorities, which include term limits for lawmakers and freezing property taxes.

Meanwhile several other measures - from a plan to expand gambling to a new capital construction program to replace crumbling roads and bridges - could get caught up in the legislative gridlock.

Here are some things to know as the Illinois Legislature heads toward its Sunday deadline:

BUDGET

Democrats on Monday introduced their proposed 2016 budget, a plan they crafted without Republican input and that they’re expected to pass without any GOP votes.

Democrats say the roughly $36 billion plan wouldn’t cut spending as much as Rauner proposed in the $31.5 billion plan he presented in February. Republicans ripped Democrats on Monday for proposing to spend more than the revenue the state is projected to bring in, calling the plan irresponsible.

Rauner could use his authority to cut spending on specific items or veto the entire budget.

TAXES

Lawmakers have floated several options for bringing in new revenue, though they’ve yet to advance any legislation.

One option is to raise Illinois’ income tax rate, which fell from 5 percent to 3.75 percent for individuals on Jan. 1 - a major reason the state now is dealing with a multibillion-dollar deficit. Lawmakers have suggested the rate could be increased to around 4 percent or 4.5 percent.

During his campaign, Rauner proposed imposing a sales tax on some services. He said a tax on such things as janitorial services and mini-storage could generate about $600 million. Two tax policy groups earlier this month recommended taxing more consumer services, such as haircuts, saying it could bring in up to $2.1 billion annually.

RAUNER AGENDA

The Senate is scheduled this week to hold committee hearings on some pieces of Rauner’s legislative agenda. They include reducing the cost to businesses of workers’ compensation insurance, changing Illinois’ legal system to make it more difficult for companies to be sued and freezing property taxes.

Those proposals are highly unlikely to advance, however, because Democrats see them as harmful to working people.

Legislative leaders haven’t scheduled any hearings for two Rauner-backed bills: one to impose term limits on lawmakers and another to change the way Illinois’ political districts are drawn.

GAMBLING

A bipartisan group of lawmakers has been meeting to hammer out a deal to expand gambling, including a new casino in Chicago that Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to help address the city’s multibillion-dollar public-pension shortfall.

Republican Sen. Dave Syverson of Rockford said legislation could be put on hold if Rauner doesn’t get some of what he wants. But Senate President John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, said a bill could be introduced in his chamber and would be independent of any “grand bargain” with the governor.

CAPITAL CONSTRUCTION

The Illinois Department of Transportation this month said the state needs to spend billions more on roads and bridges than is currently planned. But the $31 billion from a capital construction plan former Gov. Pat Quinn approved has run out, and there’s no plan for what to do next.

Legislators met in working groups in hopes of drafting one, but the talks stalled.

IDOT warns that without new revenue, the mileage of acceptable highways in Illinois could drop from 83 percent today to 62 percent by 2021.

Associated Press reporter Kerry Lester contributed from Springfield, Illinois.

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