Frustrated Senate Democrats push 'grand bargain' votes

Senator Dale Fowler
Senator Dale Fowler

ILLINOIS (KFVS/AP) - Illinois Senate Democrats were in Springfield on Wednesday, May 17 to vote on the "grand bargain" to end the two-year budget stalemate.

Here in the Heartland, that budget stalemate is still taking a toll on businesses.

Sherry Crabb is in charge of Family Counseling Centers in southern Illinois. She gave up a third of her salary to keep others employed and had to make many other tough decisions to keep the doors of the agency open.

On Wednesday, she was in Springfield advocating for health service providers.

"I spend most of my time in this car I think than anywhere else," Crabb explained.

At least once a week, Crabb is in the car driving to Springfield advocating for health service providers.

"All we can hope for is something that we say, whether it is a word or a story, a research article or some value set that we can bring evidences what the impact is," she said.

Crabb's current focus in Springfield is the "grand bargain," a series of deals to break the two-year budget stalemate. She's also worried about cuts to Medicaid.

"It's concerning especially in southern Illinois because we have such a large population of Medicaid eligible people. It there is permanent cuts to general revenue plus Medicaid that's a double whammy," she said.

According to Crabb, Family Counseling Service is doing fairly good right now.

"I think I doors would be closed if we hadn't been proactive starting in 2015," she said.

In the past, her agency has had major layoffs, cuts in retirement plans, the loss of Paid Time off and even had to close a homeless shelter.

"I know that they all got really tough decision," she said. "I mean, know that there's a lot more than what meets the eye in Springfield. All I can hope is that they choose to put people first on the agenda….you've got to put the people of Illinois first."

Crabb said she will continue to go to Springfield and advocate, not just for Family Counseling Center but for all the human service providers.

Members of the majority party say the Legislature's May 31 adjournment deadline is looming. They are frustrated at the lack of progress on the compromise package worked out with Republicans.

The sprawling grand bargain was supposed to set a bar for ending a two-year budget stalemate between Democrats controlling the General Assembly and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. It includes an income-tax increase to tackle a multibillion-dollar deficit and business climate changes Rauner demands.

None of it was supposed to take effect unless it all did. That's changed. Assistant Majority Leader Donne Trotter of Chicago says each of the dozen or so bills will be voted on as stand-alone measures.

Eight bills were presented in the Senate on Wednesday as stand-alone and were not tied together.

Senator Dale Fowler was hopeful they would see a budget soon.

"We certainly hope so," he said. "I have mixed emotions on a lot of this because, you know, we's imperative that we keep talking to find common ground that benefits our taxpayers and we need a balanced budget and we have not had a balanced budget since 2001."

Senate Bill 6, a spending bill for supplemental appropriations, passed. so did Senate Bill 7 for gaming license expansion.

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Copyright 2017 KFVS. All rights reserved. The Associated Press also contributed to this story.