Governor offers two paths to a balanced budget

With a strong emphasis on the need for bipartisan compromise, Governor Bruce Rauner used his second annual budget address to offer two paths for fixing the state’s unprecedented and crippling budget gridlock.

Stressing his preference to work with lawmakers from both parties and both chambers on a moderate budget option, the Governor repeatedly underscored the need for transformational savings and structural reforms as a way to grow Illinois’ economy and benefit Illinois citizens.

However, Governor Rauner also said that if Democrat leadership remains committed to partisanship and political self-preservation, he is willing to reduce spending on his own. Though he underscored his desired path would be to work on a compromise budget with lawmakers, the Governor said that if given the authority he is willing to unilaterally make the cuts needed to fulfill the constitutional mandate of a balanced budget.

These cuts would extend to all areas of Illinois’ budget—except funding for early childhood education and General State Aid to Illinois schools, which the Governor said is his top priority. He stressed during his remarks that fully funding general state aid for education is non-negotiable.  Meanwhile, Democrat leadership maintains that Chicago Public Schools should get more money before downstate and suburban schools receive funding.  

On Wednesday, the Governor advocated for historic increases in funding for K-12 Education and Early Childhood Education. If the Governor’s proposal for education moves forward, it would be the first time in seven years that General State Aid has been fully funded. Senate Republicans have repeatedly called for full funding of the state’s foundation level for schools.

A number of additional reforms comprised what Governor Rauner said is a part of his comprehensive approach to balancing the state budget. The Governor advocated for savings through changes to the state’s procurement system, streamlining government, and criminal justice reforms. The Governor’s proposed changes to how the state buys goods and services is expected to save half a billion dollars in the next fiscal year alone.

Governor Rauner also reinforced his support for a pension reform plan first proposed by Senate President John Cullerton. It’s estimated that Illinois taxpayers could see savings in the billions as early as 2017, if this proposal moves forward.

As the state enters its eighth month without a state budget, Rauner underscored during his speech that the unbalanced budgets of the past have cost taxpayers billions. Billions in revenue have gone to pay the interest on unbalanced bills and borrowing, and many more billions have been lost due to missed opportunities for economic growth and due to businesses and citizens fleeing Illinois.

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