Democrats, seeking compromise, pass key Rauner priorities in final days of session

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The General Assembly wrapped up its regular legislative session today with the state budget standoff continuing now for over 700 days.

The General Assembly however, did pass a flurry of non-budget bills in the waning days and hours of the legislative session in the spirit of compromise with the Governor.

A bipartisan group of senators approved one of Governor Rauner’s policy priorities: a two-year property tax freeze.

“This is a full property tax freeze,” Senate President John Cullerton said. “The question is the length. My philosophy is two years is a really good start, and if it is so popular, we can come back and do it again.”

Despite a tax freeze being a key part of his turnaround agenda, Governor Rauner opposes the bill.

Democrats in the House also approved legislation that would increase the state’s minimum wage over five years, to $15. The wage currently stands at $8.25.

During the 2014 campaign and in his Turnaround Agenda, Governor Rauner claimed to support an increase in the minimum wage. However, a source told Crain’s that a veto of the increase by the Governor was likely.

Finally, the House approved a bill that authorizes the sale of the James R. Thompson Center, the state building in downtown Chicago.

Governor Rauner has made selling the building, which he believes can sell for $300 million, a priority.

“Governor Rauner has prioritized the sale of the Thompson Center, and today’s action moves us toward that sale,” House Speaker Michael Madigan said.  He closed by urging Rauner to work with the House to resolve the budget impasse.

House panels approved two other Rauner priorities: bills reforming school funding and allowing local government consolidation.  However, passage of his priorities has not moved the Governor closer to striking a budget deal.

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