Illinois House Dems offer own non-budget reforms, press Rauner for meeting

May 16, 2017

With 15 days left until the end of the spring legislative session, a group of Illinois House Democrats Tuesday said they’re waiting on Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner to discuss pro-business and economic reforms to end the budget impasse.

Speaking at a morning press conference, House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, and three other Democratic lawmakers appointed by Speaker Michael Madigan to negotiate with the Rauner administration on non-budgetary items, offered their own list of reforms but noted they have not received a response from the governor’s office to a letter they sent a week ago requesting a meeting to find “common ground.”

Currie said House Democrats have provided Rauner with “many opportunities” to freeze property taxes, make additional changes to the state’s workers’ compensation insurance system as well as a variety of economic reforms.

But prior to the Democrats’ presser, several House Republican lawmakers held their own news conference, telling reporters their colleagues on the other side of the aisle were offering up “rehashed proposals.”

State Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, said Democrats have reverted to the old playbook they’ve seen “time and time again,” where they’re appearing to engage in real negotiations but in reality are just “running out the clock.”

“We’ve seen over the last couple of years this situation play out,” said Demmer, who added that in both 2015 and 2016 Democrats participated in working groups only to pull out at the last minute and go on to pass unbalanced budgets.

Before Tuesday’s press conference, Rauner spokeswoman Eleni Demertzis told the Chicago Tribune that the governor’s office is “skeptical,” saying all they will see “from Madigan Democrats is another set of phony reforms to disguise a massive tax hike and bailout for Chicago.”

Some of the key proposals outlined by Democrats on Tuesday deal with health care, property tax relief, workers’ compensation insurance costs, cutting corporate income tax rates while also imposing an “alternative minimum tax” to level the playing field for small- and medium-sized businesses by ensuring big, profitable companies pay something.

Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat, said it’s critical that the Legislature protects Illinoisans in the area of pre-existing conditions amid GOP efforts in Congress to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

“We cannot allow Washington to just steal health care away from our people,” said Lang, who also called for the creation of an “Insurance Rate Review Board” aimed at preventing insurance companies from price gouging consumers.

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