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Senate President urges optimism on state budget deal after first leaders meeting in months (VIDEO)

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SPRINGFIELD – Emerging from the first legislative leaders meeting in months, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton said his fellow leaders recognize the urgency of reaching a budget deal and that Sunday’s meeting should fuel new optimism that it will happen soon. 

Asked by reporters if the people of Illinois should be more or less optimistic after the meeting, the Senate President replied: “I would say more.”

When asked why he felt that way, he said, “Because we couldn’t even get a meeting a couple days ago.” 

Indeed, Sunday’s afternoon's meeting of the Republican and Democratic leaders from the Senate and House was the first of its kind this year.

Governor Bruce Rauner pulled the plug on budget meetings with the legislative leaders back in December, arguing that he didn’t think Democrats were serious about a budget deal. 

Just weeks later, the Senate leaders unveiled a sweeping set of financial and governmental reforms dubbed the Grand Bargain in an effort to shake loose a state budget after a nearly two-year impasse. The Senate Democrats went on to pass a balanced budget plan. Even the House Republican leader has acknowledged that the Senate has “done their work.”

Senate President Cullerton told reporters Sunday that the meeting was civil and he would be briefing Senate Democrats on developments in advance of another leaders meeting being scheduled.

Asked if the governor would attend future leaders meetings, Cullerton said: “That’s up to the governor. He’s the one that calls those meetings.” 

The Senate President again noted that the Illinois Senate had already approved all the issues the governor cited in convening Special Sessions of the General Assembly.