Rauner Takes Heat For More Budget Cuts Slated For July

By aaroncynic in News on Jun 3, 2015 4:40PM

Governor Bruce Rauner sharpened his axe yesterday, announcing a host of planned cuts beginning July 1 if lawmakers can’t come to an agreement on a state budget.

In a statement released late in the afternoon, Rauner lashed out at the budget passed by House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, which contains a $4 billion shortfall, calling it “phony.”

"Speaker Madigan, President Cullerton and the politicians they control refuse to act responsibly and reform state government,” said Lance Trover, a spokesperson for the governor. “It is time they come to the table with Governor Rauner to turnaround Illinois."

Among the items on the cutting board are:

  • Incentive offers intended to attract and retain businesses, including EDGE tax credits, business attraction grants, and employer training investment program incentive grants.

  • Two juvenile detention facilities and one prison work camp.

  • Vehicle purchases for the Illinois State Police.

  • State plane passenger services - mostly used by Illinois lawmakers to travel to and from Springfield.

  • The proposed Illiana Expressway, which would connect I-55 to I-65.

  • The governor made sure not to leave out large cuts to social services either. Rauner also will suspend funds for the State Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, freeze intakes and create waiting lists for the Department of Human Services Child Care Assistance Program, increase copays for parents using that program and put income limits on a program designed to assist senior citizens in getting services to avoid going to nursing homes. The plan also calls for the closure of five state museums.

    State democrats criticized Rauner’s move, saying that the governor is unwilling to work with them.

    “Unfortunately, today's actions signal that the governor would rather slash child care, services for troubled youth and senior care rather than work on a bipartisan budget solution,” Rikeesha Phelon a spokesperson for Cullerton, told the Chicago Tribune.

    Rauner’s latest move is another jab at the opposition to his “turnaround agenda,” a laundry list of items that are designed to weaken unions and gut workers rights. The governor has said he would consider revenue options, but only if state democrats would cede to their opposition to "right to work," and other changes in workers compensation, damage awards for civil lawsuits and a freeze in property taxes.

    Rauner has also taken heat for using budget cuts as a bargaining chip. Critics say the money is there, but the governor has all but ignored revenue options. In an interview with WGN, State Representative Will Guzzardi said:

    “This is another indication that the governor is perfectly willing to use poor people, children, the disabled, as bargaining chips to get his political ends accomplished… He’s proposing profound cuts to people who desperately need services and what we’re saying is we need to fund those services and find some revenue solutions to make that happen.”

    Indeed, there are revenue options available to shore up the state budget, if “shared sacrifice” includes corporations and the state’s more wealthy individuals. Last month, the advocacy group Voices for Illinois Children released a report showing that changes to the state’s income tax code, sales tax and closing tax loopholes corporations frequently exploit would all generate revenue.

    In a statement blasting what he called “unilateral cuts” by the governor that “will not pass muster with the people of Illinois, Keith Kelleher, President of SEIU Healthcare Illinois said:

    "The bottom line is that Bruce Rauner refuses true budgetary reform--generating much-needed revenue by making the wealthy of the state pay their fair share.”

    A day prior to Rauner’s announcement, clergy also called out the governor for ignoring revenue options. At a demonstration in front of the Thompson Center, where some protesters briefly blocked rush hour traffic, Reverend Darrick Jackson, a Unitarian Universalist, said:

    “While two thirds of corporations pay NO corporate income tax in Illinois and while multimillionaires like Bruce Rauner pay the same tax rate as middle class people, it is immoral to leave people's lives hanging in the balance with an unfunded budget.”