Illinois Legislature Losing a Voice of Compromise as Budget Standoff Goes to Wire

By Quint Forgey Features Dow Jones Newswires

The deadlocked Illinois government just lost a key voice of compromise as state lawmakers continue to push to resolve a two-year budget standoff.

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Christine Radogno, the Illinois Senate's Republican leader and the first female legislative leader in state history, announced her resignation effective July 1, the start of the state's new fiscal year.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democratic legislature must reach a compromise before then, or the state could face a junk-bond rating. Illinois has already racked up $14.6 billion in unpaid bills after nearly two years without a balanced spending plan.

Mr. Rauner and Democratic House speaker Michael Madigan have clashed over taxes and spending since Mr. Rauner took office in 2015.

"I have done everything I can do to resolve the state's budget crisis. I will continue to do so for the coming days," Ms. Radogno said in a statement. "But if the solution will not come on my watch, I hope and pray that the Governor, other legislative leaders, Democrats and Republicans in the Senate and House can find a path to solve the state's problems."

News of Ms. Radogno's retirement from the General Assembly rattled a statehouse already under immense pressure to fund health care, education, construction and other essential services.

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Ms. Radogno was influential in drafting a compromise budget in December that won approval from the Senate but collapsed amid the impasse between the governor and Mr. Madigan.

On Wednesday, Mr. Rauner threatened to keep lawmakers in Springfield for an extended session if they don't produce a budget by the July 1 deadline.

Mr. Madigan appeared optimistic following discussions Thursday with Democratic Senate President John Cullerton and minority leaders from both chambers. But he stopped short of saying a deal would be struck by 11:59 p.m. Friday.

"We had a very good leader's meeting. [An] exchange of ideas," Mr. Madigan said. "If people are reasonable, it can be done."

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 29, 2017 20:44 ET (00:44 GMT)