'Shared Pain' Highlights Rauner's Inaugural Budget Address
By Chuck Sudo in News on Feb 18, 2015 8:30PM
Photo credit: Metropolitan Planning Council
Saying “this is our last, best chance to get our house in order,” Gov. Bruce Rauner’s inaugural budget address proposed billions in funding cuts across the board, including the amount of state income tax revenues shared by local governments and set the stage for a legislative and legal battle over pension reform. Instead of speaking for 30 minutes, Rauner should have simply stood at the dais, held up a knife, shouted “austerity, bitches” and left the state capitol chamber.
Rauner has consistently said everyone in Illinois must share the pain of getting the state’s finances in order. His proposed budget cuts ensure those who need state services the most will feel those cuts the worst. Among Rauner’s proposed cuts are:
Reducing funding for higher education by $387 million
Cut Medicaid spending by $1.5 billion
Slash funding for Chicago-area transit agencies by $128 million
Taking another shot at public sector unions, Rauner proposed saving $2.2 billion by shifting current workers’ pension plans into the state plan for recent hires which offers lower benefits. Rauner noted Illinois’ worst in the nation, $111 billion underfunded pension tumbleweed and said:
As it stands right now, one out of every four dollars taken from taxpayers by the state goes into a system that is giving more than ELEVEN THOUSAND government retirees tax-free, six-figure pensions worth as much as, in one case, $450,000 per year.
That is unfair and unsustainable - and it changes with this budget.
Rauner’s $31.5 billion budget does call for higher investments in primary education and called for an extra $300 million in general state aid, while road construction funding will increase by $120 million. And that would only balance this year’s budget. Rauner says the state is facing a $5.7 billion deficit next year if reforms aren’t implemented.
"Illinois government is currently designed to benefit those inside the system rather than those working families throughout our state," he said. "We must institute major reforms, or whatever balanced budget we craft together this year will be undone to put the people’s interests first and the special interests last."
Rauner’s address was received with Republicans lightly applauding his proposals but not so much as to incur the wrath of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan; he remembers slights better than Livia Soprano. Democratic leaders, meanwhile, would have responded better to a fart in church. Illinois Senate President John Cullerton praised Rauner for having a budget to submit.
"The content of his plan raises significant questions about its viability in the legislative process.
“Rauner’s plan includes proposals that will undermine access to health services, child care, affordable college and retirement security for working- and middle-class families,” Cullerton said.
Chicago’s mayoral candidates piled on, since CTA funding will suffer if Rauner’s budget holds. Ald. Bob Fioretti said the budget “is one working and middle class people cannot afford.” Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia called Rauner’s budget “an open assault on Chicago residents with its $125 million cut to the city’s portion of state income tax revenue and an approximately $55 million in cuts from the CTA.”
As for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, he did his best not to outright criticize his BFF Rauner and said the city needs its full share of state income tax revenues to provide basic services and pay police and firefghters, while adding it’s time to “double down” on mass transit funding.
Read Rauner’s full address here.