Senate Democrat budget negotiators urge calm as progress continues in Springfield

SPRINGFIELD – Key negotiators for the Illinois Senate Democrats today said budget talks at the Statehouse are progressing, and they urged calm, continued optimism from everyone involved.

“Our expectation and understanding is that now that the budget piece is getting nailed down, that was key to finalizing a few of the other pieces,” said Senator Heather Steans, a Chicago Democrat and chairwoman of one of the Senate’s appropriations committees, during a briefing with reporters at the Capitol Saturday afternoon. Steans said lawmakers from all four legislative caucuses were engaged in budget negotiations until late Friday night, and talks resumed at the Capitol Saturday morning. She added that workers’ compensation negotiations hinge on finalizing budget talks and that property tax relief talks are still on the table, as are other pieces, such as getting the governor’s signature on the Senate Democrats’ school funding reform bill.

Steans noted that it is a heavy lift to get so many of different lawmakers to come together to resolve the budget stalemate, adding that the Senate saw the challenge of it firsthand this spring with its Grand Bargain negotiations. But, she said, “I believe we’re actually getting there. I actually do feel we’ve been knocking each of the items off the list and getting to the point where we’re going to be able to get all four caucuses doing that.”

Senator Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat and chairman of another Senate appropriations committee, also is part of these budget negotiations. Given the productive nature of talks on Friday and the length of the protracted budget stalemate, he said, it’s important that lawmakers don’t start pointing fingers at each other now.

“We have to realize that we are going on our third year without a complete budget in place. Given the progress that was made yesterday, the last thing we need today is finger pointing from either side,” he said.

“We left here last night with a sense of progress and a sense of hope that we can wrap this thing up. I would urge everyone in both chambers – both parties – to strive for slow and steady progress so we can strive for finality to what has been a fiscal impasse that has gone on for far too long.”

Senator Donne Trotter (D-Chicago), assistant majority leader of the Senate, also participated in Saturday’s press briefing and said now is the time for all lawmakers to work together on behalf of the people of Illinois.

“It’s time to listen to what is happening in our communities. It is time to go forward and to ensure that the individuals of our state are the recipients of all the good things that we can do to ensure there is going to be a quality of life they can raise their children in,” Trotter said. “We have a lot of work to do, but it is not because we don’t know what the situation is. We cannot keep on repeating the discussions that have taken us nowhere. We should go forward with the positive discussions we’ve been working on.”

Senator Toi Hutchinson (D-Chicago Heights) told reporters Senate Democrats are continuing to work in good faith with lawmakers from all of the caucuses to resolve the budget stalemate.

“It’s going to take all hands on deck to get this handled. We’re here in Springfield, we’re ready and we’re continuing to work in good faith to get to the point where we can stabilize what is happening,” she said.

“This is the state of Illinois, and it needs us to be better than we ever were. We’re really urging for cooler heads to prevail and not to devolve into things that could knock us off course when we make winning the gotcha game more important than saving the state.”

Video clip from news conference: