Gov. Bruce Rauner says the spending plan he will present during his budget address next month will be balanced, but would include spending cuts.
Rauner, who spoke with reporters after meeting with small business owners at the Edwardsville Public Safety Building, said he would not give specifics about possible cuts in the 2018-19 budget.
Illinois went two years without an adopted spending plan as an impasse kept the Democratically-controlled General Assembly and the Republican governor from agreeing to a budget. Consent decrees and court orders, however, allowed spending to continue.
The state House is scheduled to go back into session Jan. 23 and the state Senate on Jan. 30. Rauner’s State Of The State Address is scheduled for Jan. 31, and his budget address is scheduled for Feb. 14.
“I have proposed a balanced budget every year I’ve been governor,” Rauner said. “Unfortunately Speaker (Mike) Madigan and the legislators he controls have ignored my recommendations on a budget and have passed unbalanced budgets every year, just as they have prior to me becoming governor.”
In July however the general assembly passed a budget, along with an increase in the income tax, over Rauner’s veto. The state’s budget year runs from July 1 through June 30.
Rauner said he is committed to rolling back the income tax rate to 3 percent in the state.
“It’s essential for the people of Illinois that we have balanced budgets,” Rauner said. “We can’t think that having unbalanced budgets and then ultimately raising taxes as a result to pay for the unbalanced budget. Raising taxes is not the answer. We cannot tax our way to a better future for the people of Illinois.”
In a YouTube video released Tuesday, Democratic Comptroller Susana Mendoza disagreed with Rauner’s assessments of his proposals, said he presented unbalanced budgets, and cited the Better Government Association and PolitiFact.
“We went two full years without a budget causing needless pain to people and businesses all over the state, racking up billions of dollars in unpaid bills and approaching a billion dollars in late payment interest penalties that taxpayers are on the hook for,” Mendoza said.
Many social service agencies went without payment for a long portion of the impasse.
She said she hopes Rauner avoids the gridlock that plagued the state government for two years.
“Our state and its finances cannot afford a repeat of the last three years of chaos and unpredictability brought on by the lack of a budget,” Mendoza said.
In an interview, state Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea, who is also the majority conference chairperson in the House, said he’s hopes the governor works with legislators.
“We’ve gone three years without the governor signing a budget. I hope this year he’ll decide to be engaged in the process,” Hoffman said.
The budget that was adopted in 2017 was done so with Republican votes.
“We did it in a bipartisan fashion,” Hoffman said. “I hope we can work together in a bipartisan fashion once again, if the governor is not willing to do it, as rank-and-file legislators to get a budget passed in Illinois that’s balanced.”
Hoffman said another tax increase is not expected, but said cuts would be needed.
“Last year we made $3 billion in cuts, and actually $1 billion under the governor’s introduced level,” Hoffman said. “Those cuts were necessary, they affect real people. In order to have balanced budget, we’re going to have to look at the fat in government and see if there’s more we could trim. You hate to do it, but it’s going to have to be done.”
Rauner, whose re-election campaign has pulled a TV advertisement featuring Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, was asked about the allegations involved in the Show Me State’s governor’s extramarital affair.
The allegations include that Greitens, a Republican, blackmailed his mistress into keeping quiet. Greitens has denied that claim, but admitted to the affair.
“The charges that have been made, the allegations in that situation are very serious,” Rauner said when asked if he thinks Greitens should resign. “There is an investigation underway, and I do hope they get to the truth of that situation very quickly.”