Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lawmakers back next week to talk budget

By Jamey Dunn

The Illinois House will head back to Springfield on Monday with the intent of passing a budget.

According to an e-mail from House Speaker Mike Madigan’s spokesman, Steve Brown, lawmakers will be back in the chamber Monday afternoon. In the e-mail, Brown told legislators to come prepared to work Tuesday and Wednesday as well. Senate President John Cullerton sent out a memo to his members telling them they would be back Wednesday and may be in until Friday. He said in the memo that although he did not expect the session to stretch into Memorial Day weekend, “it may be necessary, depending on the action taken in the House of Representatives.”

Lawmakers must approve a budget by midnight on Monday, when the new fiscal year begins. Anything passed after that date will need a three-fifths majority to take effect.

The Senate passed a budget plan earlier this month, and Cullerton has reiterated that it is now the House’s move.

Representatives have not yet been able to reach agreement on a plan. A bill to borrow almost $4 billion to make the annual pension payment failed, as well as a proposal that would cut roughly the same amount next fiscal year. The reductions mainly target primary and secondary education, an area that is politically difficult for both parties to cut.

Madigan, the sponsor of the cuts measure, invited members from both sides of the aisle to file amendments to the bill proposing alternative cuts. So far only one member, Madigan’s fellow Democrat Rep. Jack Franks from Woodstock, has presented any amendments (Amendments 3, 4 and 5). Franks’ amendments would end salaries for members of executive branch boards or commissions and cut legislators’ and top agency officials’ pay.

Expect a lot of debate and grandstanding from both sides of the aisle next week on hot-button issues like cuts and borrowing.

As part of its budget plan, the Senate passed a bill to direct money toward education from a dollar-a-pack cigarette tax increase that the chamber passed last session. The bill lacked the votes in the House when the legislators left town on May 7.

Without new revenue or borrowing in the mix, the only other substantial option is fairly drastic budget cuts. Democrats have spent the last two weeks negotiating agreements behind close doors, and the plan may take shape next week.


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