When Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks to the General Assembly on Wednesday to deliver his annual budget address, he said he will continue to encourage the work taking place toward a compromise in the state Senate, in a state that has not had a spending plan in place for more than a year.
Rauner, who spoke with the Belleville News-Democrat Editorial Board this week, said he has been heartened by the ongoing budget work in the state Senate.
“I applaud the Senate leaders. I think they’re making progress. They should be encouraged and supported by all of us. I want to support and thank the House Democratic leadership. For the first time ever, House Democratic leaders have said we should have tax reform to be more competitive and attractive to job creators. I strongly agree with them on that,” Rauner said. “I look forward to working with them to get that passed to attract more good-paying jobs to the state of Illinois.”
Rauner said he plans to stay out of the negotiations and let the legislators do their work.
“I may propose some ideas to think about or issues to include in their discussion, but I don’t want to interfere. I don’t want to block anything. I don’t want to weigh in with ‘that’s a terrible idea,’ or ‘this has to be in it,’” Rauner said. “Let’s let the rank-and-file members come together on a bipartisan basis and try to work out this compromise... There’s some good-faith negotiations going on.”
I may propose some ideas to think about or issues to include in their discussion, but I don’t want to interfere. I don’t want to block anything. I don’t want to weigh in with ‘that’s a terrible idea,’ or ‘this has to be in it.’ Let’s let the rank-and-file members come together on a bipartisan basis and try to work out this compromise... There’s some good-faith negotiations going on.
Governor Bruce Rauner
He said those working on a compromise are receiving criticism from all sides, but he will continue to encourage them to keep working.
“Compromise is going to be frustrating for everybody,” Rauner said. “The groups that love the status quo, boy are they coming out in force. My sense is the package, the deal is fluid. It’s not done, it’s not baked, it’s evolving … Let’s see where they get to. If we get too critical too early, it doesn’t help.”
But again, along with a balanced budget, Rauner said he wants to see some reforms.
As part of Rauner’s Turnaround Agenda, he had called for term limits on elected officials, redistricting reform, a property tax freeze, allowing for more local control, reducing unfunded mandates, and worker compension reform, among other things.
“Let’s have a truly balanced budget — we can’t keep kicking the can, we can’t keep doing stop-gaps that don’t really balance, that’s a mistake,” Rauner said. “And we need structural change to get that message to job creators and, frankly, to working families. A lot of them are saying they’re moving. They’re moving to Indiana, they’re moving to Texas, they’re moving to Tennessee, they’re frustrated. We need a message to everybody that it’s a new day, we have turned the corner, you have a better future here.”
However, any deal that gets bipartisan support in the state Senate will still need to make it through the House, which means House Speaker Michael Madigan will need to allow a vote.
“In the end, it really boils down to the rank-and-file members in the four caucuses and whether they will stand together to try to do what they think is the right thing,” Rauner said. “That really in the end is the key. We’ll see, I’m optimistic that they will.”
Getting a balanced budget for the state would be “heroic,” Rauner said.
“That’s a culture shift right there. Anyone who believes we could just tax our way to a balanced budget or to prosperity is fundamentally wrong. Anybody who thinks we could just simply cut and get out of our problems, I think they’re fundamentally wrong,” Rauner said. “We need to grow, we have to grow our economy. We have to create good-paying jobs.”
This is the first step toward an end to this destructive stalemate. I want us to continue moving forward.
Sen. Jacqueline Collins, a D-Chicago
Earlier this week, the Senate voted on several bills that had been part of the ongoing budget negotiations in the chamber.
Some of the reforms included the way state government purchases goods and services, allowing voters to combine or eliminate certain units of local government, and allowing municipalities to take steps to more effectively issue bonds.
“This is the first step toward an end to this destructive stalemate. I want us to continue moving forward,” said Sen. Jacqueline Collins, a Chicago Democrat.
However, after those votes, Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno said the measures were part of a comprehensive package that she wanted to move forward only when the package was complete.
“There is still substantial work to be done on key measures of this budget package, including worker’s compensation reform, that we need to help make Illinois competitive again, and education funding which we have to get right,” Radogno said.
There is still substantial work to be done on key measures of this budget package, including worker’s compensation reform, that we need to help make Illinois competitive again, and education funding which we have to get right.
Sen. Christine Radogno, Republican Senate leader
The state has gone without a budget for 18 months, and a six-month stop-gap budget that passed last year expired in January and brought Rauner and Speaker Madigan back to their ongoing stalemate.
Complicating the work is a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who asked to suspend state worker pay at the end of the month if a budget isn’t passed.
Rauner questioned the move by Lisa Madigan, who is the daughter of the speaker.
“If she really believed that was the right thing to do, she should have done it 18 months ago,” Rauner said. “Why now? Why all of the sudden when the Senate is working on a bipartisan package and needs some time to work it out. Why now?”