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Illinois legislature headed to overtime amid political disagreements

The Illinois Capitol in Springfield
Flickr | jglazer75
The Illinois Capitol building in Springfield, Ill. In this building today, the Illinois House of Representatives voted on a bill to abolish the death penalty in the state. (via Flickr/jglazer75)

Illinois lawmakers wrapped up the most recent legislative session on Sunday after a budget battle pitting Republican Governor Bruce Rauner against a House and Senate both controlled by Democrats. After failing to reach an agreement with Rauner, however, lawmakers are set to return to Springfield this Thursday, June 4.

Amanda Vinicky, Illinois Public Radio statehouse bureau chief, joined “St. Louis on the Air” to help sort out the prickly politics surrounding budget negotiations between Gov. Rauner and the legislature.

The subject of disagreement is allegedly the content of Rauner’s “Turnaround Plan,” which includes tax cuts, restrictions on collective bargaining, and a freeze on property taxes. But Rauner is Illinois’ first Republican governor in twelve years, Vinicky told host Don Marsh, and the division in state government has turned policy negotiation into an ideological debate that Democrats say is putting schools and social service agencies—among other state-funded programs and institutions—in danger.

Since the legislative slug-out began Rauner has slimmed the “Turnaround” agenda to five points, some of which might be universally acceptable, Vinicky continued. But whether Rauner’s hardball is a keen negotiating strategy or the result of personal rancor is hard to say. Democrats have accused Rauner of planning to use leftover campaign money to fund ads demonizing Senate President John Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan. Meanwhile, Rauner contends that the politics of President Cullerton and Speaker Madigan have worked to the detriment of Illinois citizens.

Politics is politics, Vinicky noted. “What seems different at this point in time is just how early these accusations have been thrown and how personal they’re getting.”

Some legislation has passed: the decriminalization of marijuana, measures for Illinois police departments to instate officer body cameras, and several, less serious initiatives, as well—including restrictions on how long pet owners can keep their animals outside and a decision on the state pie. But Illinois’ biggest questions have yet to be resolved.

“Rauner says he’s not backing down,” Vinicky concluded. “Democrats don’t plan to, either.”

St. Louis on the Air discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.

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