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State

Leaders ‘close’ on budget agreement as GOP says ‘details’ lacking on capital plan

Another meeting scheduled Monday as session enters final week

Republican Senate Leader Bill Brady, of Bloomington, speaks to media after a meeting of legislative leaders Thursday at the Capitol in Springfield. Brady called the meeting “nice,” and said, “I think the budget is probably the most workable portion of this. I doubt that we'll have bipartisan support on the tax increases.”
Republican Senate Leader Bill Brady, of Bloomington, speaks to media after a meeting of legislative leaders Thursday at the Capitol in Springfield. Brady called the meeting “nice,” and said, “I think the budget is probably the most workable portion of this. I doubt that we'll have bipartisan support on the tax increases.”

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois’ four legislative leaders met with Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker in an hour-long conference which covered a broad range of issues, according to the two Republicans present.

Republican Senate Leader Bill Brady, of Bloomington, called it a “nice meeting,” while House GOP Leader Jim Durkin, of Western Springs, said there’s still “no clarity, no consensus” on a range of issues with just seven days remaining in the legislative session.

On the budget, the group is “close,” Brady said, as the discussions were aided by an unexpected $1.5 billion April tax revenue windfall and a recent upward projection of $800 million for fiscal year 2020 revenues.

“I think the budget is probably the most workable portion of this,” Brady said. “I doubt that we'll have bipartisan support on the tax increases.

The meeting added “some clarity” on a capital improvements bill, Durkin said, but “still not anything to put on paper.”

“Democrats, if they're looking for support from my caucus, I just can't go in with general statements, I need to see a plan in place,” he said.

Pritzker laid out a $41 billion capital spending plan last week which relied on $1.8 billion in new or higher taxes, including doubling the gas tax. Durkin, however, said there was no agreement as to how a capital plan would be funded, although he said revenues from sports gambling would be “extremely important” in the process.

In terms of other revenue, Durkin agreed with Brady that many tax increases would likely lack bipartisanship.

“There are some things in there that I just can’t sell to my members,” he said. “There’s a lot of taxes that we’re seeing.”

Brady called Democrats “reserved about talking about details” on some of the capital spending until the group can “define the revenues” that will be received from some proposals that are still in limbo. Still, he said he thought “things can be worked through,” and he also said a gambling expansion bill could add more revenue for vertical infrastructure.

“I’d rather not give up on a vertical plan,” he said. “But horizontal is obviously a high priority for us.”

Brady emphasized the group wants to make greater investments in nursing homes and education, and said a tax on Medicaid managed care organizations could free up general revenue spending by allowing the state to “maximize federal reimbursement” for Medicaid spending.

Only the Republicans addressed media afterward, while Pritzker’s office released a statement calling the meeting “another productive conversation and collaboration on substantive issues.” Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said in a statement he was “cautiously optimistic we will see major accomplishments this session given the cooperative tone of these meetings.”

The group is scheduled to meet again Monday.

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