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Closer Look: Despite Illinois budget deadlock, there are ways out

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SPRINGFIELD, Illinois — What Illinois needs is for one of its political leaders to blink.

But as Republican Gov. and legislative Democrats stand eyeball-to-eyeball in negotiations over a new budget, neither is likely to submit, forcing the state to continue stumbling into the fiscal year that began July 1 without broad authority to spend.

There are some actions that could end government shutdown fears, even if they don't settle the issues separating the two sides.

Rauner, a conservative businessman, wants to change Illinois' business and political climate to spur investment and create jobs. Democrats such as House Speaker and Senate President want to ensure government continues to provide social services and other key operations for that same population, and are seeking revenue increases.

Here's a look at the immediate options:

VETO OVERRIDE

The General Assembly sent Rauner in June a $36 billion budget that had a revenue deficit of as much as $4 billion. But Democrats said they had to do it to protect "vital services." Rauner won't talk spending and new revenue with the Democrats until they adopt aspects of his "turnaround agenda" which would freeze property taxes, reform workers' compensation, and implement term limits for state lawmakers, among other measures.

Rauner received the budget in 20 separate pieces of legislation, signing just one to fund public elementary and secondary education and vetoing the rest.

Of course, lawmakers get the last word. They have until July 15 to overturn the vetoes, but there has been little talk of override. That likely has a lot to do with the three-fifths majorities necessary — 71 "yes" votes in the House, 36 in the Senate, which are a tall order.

The 19 vetoed measures were approved in the House with an average of 65 votes in favor, and 32 votes in the House. Finding six House votes and four senators is a tough task in such tense times.

TEMPORARY BUDGET

In 1991, when newly minted GOP Gov. came into office facing what was then a mind-boggling $1 billion deficit, Illinois entered the new fiscal year without a spending plan in place. There have been other long, frustrating summers since. But in those cases, such as 2004 and 2007, legislators adopted one-month, interim spending plans to keep government open while negotiations continued.

Madigan attempted the same thing last week — a $2.3 billion package to pay the bills through July. But with four members of his caucus missing, the House version failed with 67 "yes" votes — falling shy of the 71 needed to take effect immediately.

The same proposal, in separate legislation, won Senate approval, and is scheduled for a House hearing Wednesday.

Rauner has already promised to veto it.

COMPROMISE

One of Rauner's priorities is a property-tax freeze, including some measures to put restrictions on prevailing wage and union bargaining at the local level. Cullerton pushed a measure last week that provides the property tax relief in exchange for his desire to again look at revising the formula the state uses to fund schools. It got committee approval but was not called for a floor vote. Republicans say they're opposed because it doesn't include all of the governor's provisions.

Madigan has repeatedly said that the House has conducted five votes on a property-tax freeze, and all have failed. But only one included the local-spending controls Rauner wants, and on that one, the Democratic sponsor who presented the plan said he didn't support it. It failed as an amendment to a larger proposal, receiving no votes — not even Republicans.

It's an example of the strange politics under the Capitol dome. Republicans cried "setup," saying that Democrats could use their votes — regardless of the direction they went — against them in the next campaign.

STATE EMPLOYEE PAY

The issue of how long state employees get paid could decide the issue. The Democratic attorney general has asked a Cook County judge to clarify whether state law allows only limited pay without a budget, or that the full payroll can be distributed. Employees have filed a lawsuit to get the full pay. Rauner says a 2007 case set precedent to allow full payroll disbursement now.

Workers will be paid through July 15. After that, it depends on the outcome of the court case.

The House returns Wednesday and the Senate on July 14.


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

PHOTO: FILE - In this March 4, 2015, file photo, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks at an event in Springfield, Ill. Gov. Rauner has borrowed $454 million from special state funds to help manage cash flow as Illinois begins a new fiscal year without a budget. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)
FILE - In this March 4, 2015, file photo, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks at an event in Springfield, Ill. Gov. Rauner has borrowed $454 million from special state funds to help manage cash flow as Illinois begins a new fiscal year without a budget. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

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PHOTO: FILE - In this March 4, 2015, file photo, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks at an event in Springfield, Ill. Gov. Rauner has borrowed $454 million from special state funds to help manage cash flow as Illinois begins a new fiscal year without a budget. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)
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