GOP leaders blaming Democrats for stalling on revenue estimate, putting budget on hold
There is still no revenue estimate for the pending billion-dollar budget, and GOP leaders are blaming the Democrats.
Following an impromptu meeting of legislative leaders Tuesday, Gov. Bruce Rauner, Senate GOP Leader William Brady (R-Bloomington) and House GOP Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) all agreed the budget process is stalled because of the Democrats.
“They control the majority and the gavel,” Brady said.
After meeting with Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) and House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago), Rauner said the Democrats will not provide what is needed to pass the budget.
“There is a clear reluctance on the part of the speaker and the president to agree to a number or certify a revenue number,” Rauner said. “There is a reluctance to be pinned down.”
This is the second meeting called in the last month due to GOP concerns over the Democrats not filing a revenue estimate which would assure a timely and efficient budget process.
On April 30, Brady and Durkin held a press conference and called the delay suspect and possibly illegal and warned the other side of the aisle if they did not heed their warning there could be consequences on the chamber floors.
Exiting Tuesday’s meeting, Cullerton called the warning a “gotcha game” based on a political fight that he does not feel is necessary to pass a budget.
“I am not hung up on that,” Cullerton said.
"It’s not a 'gotcha,'” Durkin replied. “It is a statutory requirement.”
Cullerton said Democrats do not plan on providing GOP lawmakers a guesstimate because it is just not possible.
“We have a general idea of how much money is coming in and what we need to spend, but there is just a gap that has to be closed and there are number of different topics that need to be discussed for us to do that,” Cullerton said.
Interfund borrowing, pension debt and the sale of the Thompson Center in Chicago are a few of the pending figures needed to be resolved to ideally pass the budget by the summer, Cullerton said.
This year’s budget process is much different than last year, Cullerton said, adding that the November general election falling in the middle of a fiscal year is one of the reasons Democrats are stalling.
“We have not had that before, and it may play a role is some peoples motives but not mine,” Cullerton said.
But it does play a role and it has nothing to do with the ballot box, according to Rauner, who said Democrats suggested waiting until the election is over to pass the budget.
“We should not let politics or elections get in the way of doing the right thing for the people of Illinois,” Rauner said.
The governor said he wants to meet daily if possible since he introduced a balanced budget with no tax increase in February. “We have been at this for three months and we are still a ways away,” Rauner said.
While Cullerton said no revenue estimate is needed, Rauner said there must be one, calling the figure essential to the process.
Unlike Cullerton, Brady said he would not discuss “gap” specifics, which is secondary to the revenue estimate.
“This can’t go on forever; we have to make progress and I think the governor facilitating the meeting today shows his willingness to cooperate,” Brady said.
The GOP’s priority is to be dollar certain, Durkin said.
“The reason we have not had a revenue estimate in the last few years is because the spending priorities of the Democrats have been out of control by billions,” Durkin said.
A revenue estimate will not only save taxpayers money, Durkin said, and it will save the Democrats from themselves.
“We asked them if they would come to a gentleman’s agreement on a number and they were reluctant to come to that,” Durkin said.
Rauner said he has asked for the four leaders to meet daily if possible, noting he is available 24/7.
“The process is moving very slowly and I would like to see it move more expeditiously; time is short and we only have three weeks left of the spring session,” Rauner said.