SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The lack of trust between Illinois' Republican governor and its Legislature led by Democrats reached a full-throated roar Wednesday as the House speaker acknowledged a midnight deadline to end the longest state budget drought in modern American history would be missed, triggering a rule requiring, even more, votes for later approval and a gubernatorial scolding for "dereliction."
Speaker Michael Madigan announced there would be no House floor vote on budget measures previously approved by full Senate. Rep. Greg Harris, the Democrats' budget negotiator, said lawmakers would take testimony at public hearings about how to reach a fiscal pact for the first time since Gov. Bruce Rauner took office in 2015.
It's the longest a state has gone without a budget deal since at least the Great Depression.
"This is a dereliction of duty on the part of the majority in the General Assembly," Rauner told reporters Wednesday. "We need to fight for our taxpayers, make sure they're protected; bring down our property tax burden, it's the highest in America; and most importantly, grow more jobs in the state of Illinois."
He denounced the Democrats' plan for "sham hearings" to drum up "phony headlines." The fiscal year starts July 1, but beginning Thursday, a three-fifths supermajority rather than a simple majority is required for budget approval.
The budget plan at hand, borne of months of bipartisan Senate negotiations, called for spending $37.3 billion fueled by $5.4 billion in tax increases. But Madigan said his members got skittish after watching a fickle Rauner during the Senate talks, allegedly often changing his mind on individual parts and pulling GOP members off votes while maintaining he was hands-off.
"Some of our people are concerned, having observed how the governor worked with the Senate Democrats, where he would negotiate, then back away, negotiate, back away," Madigan said. "They just don't have a high level of confidence in the way the governor has conducted himself."
Another, more-distant but politically crucial, deadline looms: the November 2018 election. Rauner has refused to say whether he'll seek a second term, although his campaign paid for a two-day swing around the state in April to shore up support for his agenda. Rauner was asked how that differed from the planned Democrats' traveling he dismisses as a "sham."
"When I go to communicate to the people of Illinois the status of how broken our system is and what we need to do to get a balanced budget, that's an essential part of what I do," Rauner said. "Hearings about a budget, taking public testimony about a budget, now? ... That's not real change. We should be negotiating real terms."
Rauner has blamed Democrats for failing to address the pro-business "structural changes" he seeks, such as cost-cutting restrictions on workers' compensation. Legislative Republicans have insisted a 32 percent increase in the personal income tax rate, from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent, be a part of taxpayer parity with the adoption of a local property tax freeze. Both chambers have approved workers' comp changes, and the Senate adopted a two-year freeze on property taxes. But Rauner says neither goes far enough.
J.B. Pritzker of Chicago, a businessman seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, issued a stinging rebuke of Rauner.
"For 700 days, Bruce Rauner has held Illinois hostage to force his radical and deeply misguided agenda on our state," Pritzker said. "Our economy, social service agencies, schools, and families continue to suffer untold damage at Rauner's expense, as he works to shift blame at every turn."
Democratic challengers to Pritzker include Evanston Democratic Sen. Daniel Biss, businessman Chris Kennedy, and Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar.
The Responsible Budget Coalition of social service and anti-poverty groups echoed Rauner's upbraiding of lawmakers as derelict, saying seniors will continue to lose delivered meals and in-home care, services for the mentally ill will shrink further, and domestic violence and sexual abuse victims will find help lacking.
"The providers of these services have exhausted their funding options, including their reserves, lines of credit, and grants from angel donors," a coalition statement read. "Most have received no state payments since last fall. They simply cannot survive."
Associated Press writers Kiannah Sepeda-Miller and Sophia Tareen contributed.