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The Majority Report 06/25/17 - "This could all be over if the will is there."

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Senate President urges Republicans to end the impasse

Sen. President John J. CullertonThe state's lingering budget stalemate could end quickly if Republican lawmakers would prioritize a balanced budget deal over their political allegiance to Governor Bruce Rauner, Senate President John J. Cullerton told reporters on Friday.

"This could all be over if the will is there," Cullerton said at a Capitol news conference. His comments come as the state creeps ever closer to a third year without a budget under Rauner, who the Wall Street Journal recently dubbed ‘Governor Junk.'

"The pressure is really on the Republicans in the House, and I think they really want to get this done as well," said Cullerton.

The Illinois Senate approved a balanced budget and reform plans last month, but the Illinois House has not yet reached agreement on the budget plan. With the initial May 31 deadline past, it now requires 71 votes in the 118-member House to approve a budget deal. That gives the political minority Republicans a share of the driver's seat.

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GOP offers no revenue in their incomplete budget plan

Senators Toi Hutchinson and Heather SteansIn a news conference last week, two of the Senate Democrats' top budget leaders highlighted the incomplete, severely unbalanced concepts put forth by Gov. Brucer Rauner and his Republican allies. The package that Republicans have touted as compromise is at least $5 billion out of balance because there is no legislative initiative - no revenue plan - to make their $35 billion spending desires whole.

"Everybody can come in and talk about how they want to spend money," says Revenue Committee Chair Sen. Toi Hutchinson. "But, almost nobody wants to talk about where that money is going to come from. Senate Democrats have already walked that talk, while the Republicans have no revenue proposal - making their claims for compromise empty at best."

Since January, Senate Democrats have worked in good faith with Republicans to forge a true, negotiated compromise that balances the budget through $3 billion in tough cuts and new revenue. In May, well before the scheduled adjournment deadline, a comprehensive, balanced budget plan that met Rauner's requested spending level and the necessary income tax rate increase that he says would be needed. That proposal, along with a long list of budget (and non-budget) reforms was passed to the Illinois House of Representatives, where it awaits negotiation from Republican and Democratic leaders.

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Manar: Barickman's SB1124 earns an F

Report CardSenator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) issued a statement regarding the unveiling of a new school funding formula last week.

"The spring legislative session ended more than three weeks ago. Senator Barickman missed the deadline," Manar said. "If his latest proposal was a final project, he'd earn an F because not only did he turn it in late, he showed up looking for his teacher after everyone had gone home and the school doors were locked for the summer."

Manar, the sponsor of Senate Bill 1, a school funding proposal that passed in both houses of the General Assembly on May 31, took exception with Barickman's negative characterizations of Senate Bill 1, which has widespread support from school superintendents, educators, parents and school funding reform advocates throughout Illinois.

"Republicans have done nothing but fall all over themselves to spread misinformation about Senate Bill 1 since the moment it passed," Manar said.

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Raoul's repeat gun offender measure signed into law

Sen. Kwame Raoul

A comprehensive criminal justice reform measure sponsored by State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) was signed into law Friday by Gov. Bruce Rauner. The measure is aimed at reducing the unacceptable gun violence in Chicago and across the state.

"This law is a continuation of my record of criminal justice reform efforts focusing on individualized treatment of offenders," Raoul said. "It is vital that we distinguish between repeat offenders who are more likely to be shooters and first time offenders who may be better candidates for diversion."

The measure is targeted toward repeat gun offenders, recommending that judges sentence them on the higher end of the existing sentencing range. It does allow judges to deviate from the higher sentencing recommendation if they find circumstances indicate departure is appropriate.

Raoul collaborated with House sponsor Rep. Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) to include a provision in the bill creating a diversion program in lieu of sentencing for first-time offenders under the age of 21.

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Lightford concerned about latest revelation of Rauner mismanagement

Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford

Chair of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus and Assistant Senate Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) expressed deep concern over a recent Associated Press report that suggests that Governor Bruce Rauner's administration took action to purposely exclude state guidelines aimed at encouraging minority-owned business opportunities in an effort to steer a nearly $100 million taxpayer-funded contract to a private company that is charged with creating online efficiency in state employee health insurance processing.

The news story, published last Sunday, highlights that the system was hastily designed and has caused serious difficulties in managing health care records of potentially hundreds of thousands of public employees and retirees. In addition, the investigation exposes the Rauner administration's efforts to award the massive contract to Georgia-based company Morneau Shepell in what appears to be a favored contractor:

"Documents show CMS staff members were told to proceed without following guidelines for ensuring minority-owned business participation," the AP story says.

"Bruce Rauner might have purchased the Illinois Republican Party, but he doesn't own the State of Illinois," Lightford says. "It's outrageous to discover that he thinks it's perfectly legitimate to misuse the trust of taxpayers to skirt rules aimed at giving all qualified businesses an equal playing field."

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