The difference between the two parties was in clear contrast this week, as Gov. Rauner and Senate Democrats pushed forward in two opposite directions in response to the looming $6 billion budget deficit.
Rauner announced a total of $400 million in spending cuts, in anticipation of a lack of agreement by the start of the next fiscal year on July 1. The cuts include:
Freezing all vehicle purchases for the state police
Grounding the state’s airplane passenger service
Closing five state museums to visitors
Suspending the State Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (SLIHEAP)
Identifying one or two juvenile correctional facilities to close
No awarding of grants for the Department of Natural Resource’s Open Space Land Acquisition Development Program in FY 2016
Immediate suspension of all future incentive offers to businesses, including Economic Development for a Growing Economy (EDGE) tax credits.
While Gov. Rauner began the process of anticipating an austere budget, due either to the absence of a compromise budget on July 1 or the Democrats’ passage last week of a spending plan that’s $4 billion out of balance, Senate Democrats went in the opposite direction with a significant spending proposal that would put the state’s balance sheet in even larger deficit.
Their proposal includes:
Increasing in the state’s minimum wage, to $11 per hour in four years
Free tuition and fees at Illinois community colleges
State-mandated employer-paid sick time
A state tax credit for tuition and higher education
The Senate Democrats failed to provide a cost estimate for their proposals, or an analysis of how much further these proposals would put the state into deficit.
Illinois currently faces a $6.1 billion budget deficit, by far the biggest of any state. Democrats passed a “spending plan” last week with a nearly $4 billion deficit.