SPRINGFIELD, Illinois — Despite having no state budget agreement more than four months into the state's fiscal year, the Illinois Senate left the capital city Tuesday for perhaps the last time before the new year while House Democrats attempted, but failed, to adopt spending plans they say strike at Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's "inconsistency."
The first-year governor has positioned himself this week as the more flexible party in the 18-week budget standoff. On Tuesday, for the second time in as many days, he reversed course to support a Democratic-backed spending plan.
Democrats remained wary of two different compromises Rauner floated Monday, restoring by executive power much of the money he cut from state-subsidized child care for working parents and dropping a review of tighter restrictions on seniors' eligibility for in-home or nursing assistance. But a Democratic supermajority in the House wasn't enough to push more generous plans for child- and senior-care; each proposal fell one vote short Tuesday.
The one piece of legislation that did get House approval won on a rare show of collegiality. The chamber voted 115-1 to free up already-collected tax money to disburse to municipalities, emergency dispatch centers, lottery winners and more. Rauner had previously opposed such "piece-meal" approaches to a state spending plan, but changed his mind Tuesday via a memo his deputy chief of staff sent to the Legislature, in large part sparing cuts to the programs.
Nonetheless, the bill to provide $1.9 billion in revenue not associated with the general fund was derided by GOP lawmakers because it has to go through the Senate, meaning cities needing to fix potholes and 911 dispatch centers in need of money likely won't get it by year's end.
Rauner issued a statement late Tuesday thanking both parties in the Legislature for work "to ensure reasonable and responsible compromises."
"Now we are able to move forward on providing child care for working families in a more financially responsible way and we are able to continue our long-term transformation toward better and community-based care for our seniors," Rauner said.
House Democrats told a different story. Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, invited advocacy-group leaders to address reporters after the day's events. They said Rauner's change of heart didn't address all of their concerns. Madigan suggested Rauner's actions represent not so much compromise as unpredictability. On child care, he said, Rauner requested increased funding last spring, slashed it in July when it was clear there would be no budget on time, and now has restored much of it.
"There has been inconsistency these last few months," Madigan said. "If you are a recipient of these programs, or you work in these programs, what you want is certainty."
Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, a Peoria Democrat, wanted to restore spending to its pre-July 1 level, but before that idea fell one vote short on the floor, Rauner had changed his mind and restored much, but not all, funding.
Likewise, Rauner announced he would drop plans to reconstruct the assessment procedure for determining which seniors are eligible for in-home or nursing care with state help. That means on a basic level, eligibility won't change. The Legislature had sent him a proposal that would have ensured seniors getting care now would get it after the assessment changed. Rauner vetoed parts of that, and Tuesday's override attempt fell one vote short, too.
The four legislative leaders and Rauner have tentatively agreed to a rare, public meeting to discuss the budget mess Nov. 18.
The bills are HB4305 (fund disbursement), SB570 (child care), and HB2482 (senior care).
Associated Press writer Sophia Tareen contributed from Chicago.