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New lawmakers take office but Illinois budget mess continues

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — As Illinois continues to languish without a budget, today, a new General Assembly got underway.

As expected, the House elected Mike Madigan Speaker for a 17th term. In the Senate, another Chicago Democrat, John Cullerton, is poised to take the helm for his fifth term.

After the vote Madigan flexed his muscles, ignoring bipartisan budget talks in the Senate and laying out his agenda.

“We can lift up the middle class, provide good jobs for working families while also passing polices that help business grow and expand our economy,” Madigan said.

Among Madigan’s proposals:

  • Lowering the Illinois corporate tax rate by at least 50 percent.
  • Reinstating a tax credit for business.
  • Increasing money for education.

While touting his plans, the Speaker also ripped Governor Rauner`s pro-business agenda.

“Some of us believe we can grow the economy by changes in workers compensation, collective bargaining and the prevailing wage,” Madigan said. “In my opinion, this would be a race to the bottom that would unjustifiably hurt Illinois workers.”

Republicans funded by Gov. Bruce Rauner have waged a campaign in recent weeks to urge House Democrats to reject Madigan. Madigan has been a state representative since 1971. After election as speaker in 1983, he has held the gavel for all but two years since.

Madigan made no mention of the compromise that the leaders of the Senate have been working on. Monday, the agreement was pulled before a vote. Among those proposals: a tax hike, property term limits, a minimum wage increase and an overhaul of the state`s public employee pension system.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin was also reelected to his post. He delivered a speech assailing the way Madigan runs the House.

“I`m asking you, Mr. Speaker, to stop the got-you votes,” Durkin said. “That tactic is unworthy of our chamber and of our oath of office.”