As Budget Impasse Continues, Rauner Blames Democrats While Democrats Blame Service Cuts
By aaroncynic in News on Jul 9, 2015 4:45PM
Photo credit: Metropolitan Planning Council
As the House moved forward with passing a temporary budget to cover some state finances for the next month, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner doubled down on blaming Democrats for the budget impasse.
According to The Herald-News, the Illinois House Executive Committee endorsed a $2.3 billion budget yesterday that will be called for a floor vote today, which Rauner called a “mistake,” saying that it creates a “$4 billion deficit one month at a time.”
Speaking at an afternoon press conference in front of his office in Springfield, the governor laid out an ultimatum for state Democrats—either pass his proposals or pass a “tax hike.” Speaker [Michael] Madigan needs to make a decision,” said Rauner. “You gonna support reforms or support a tax hike? It’s one or the other. Can’t just pass a spending plan with no revenue to support it then go away and start laying blame. That’s irresponsible.”
Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, who sponsored the bill, said the bill only covered certain essential core services that are provided by “organizations that don’t have the wherewithal to wait around and see if the state will finally pay the bill.” Indeed, the temporary budget doesn’t cover much, and many agencies that provide social services for the state are left without funding to keep them going for long without a yearly budget that doesn’t rely solely on sweeping cuts to stay balanced.
The Responsible Budget Coalition, a group of about 200 social service organizations pushing for more revenue options in the budget, said in a press release that the measure “fails to provide stability.”
“The proposal fails to fund many services that are critical to families and communities, such as after-school programs for kids and services for people with HIV and those who may become homeless. It also neglects to fund vital state operations - like the Department of Revenue - which are necessary for daily government functions and services.”
Rauner, who vetoed everything in the last budget proposal except for education funding, also dodged addressing his amendatory line item veto-power, which could have kept state workers paid, according to the Sun-Times. Instead, he said he’s working on legislation to fix the problem after a Cook County Court ruled the Illinois Constitution does not allow the state to pay workers outside of those who qualify for a federal minimum wage.
As part of the five proposals Rauner said lawmakers must accept, the Sun-Times reports the governor dropped a 500-page pension reform bill that slashes benefits for police officers, fire fighters and public school teachers. The bill also paves the way for municipalities to file Chapter 9 bankruptcy. While Rauner said he consulted with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Senate President John Cullerton, spokespersons for all three officials said they were fuzzy on the details. A spokesperson for Emanuel told Reuters the mayor had yet to review it, and a spokesperson for Cullerton said it was “encouraging,” but the details would have to be reviewed.
Frank Shuftan, a spokesperson for Preckwinkle, told the Sun-Times she didn’t “any direct input into formulation of this particular proposal.”
"They're terrible proposals,” Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey told ABC7. “They're blatantly unconstitutional. They basically said 'we can hit you with this rock, or we can hit you with this stick and you get to choose.'"
Sharkey’s words are apropos of the deadlock between the governor and state lawmakers. While Rauner has attempted to lay the entire blame at the feet of state Democrats, who have plenty to answer for after years of backlogged bills and behemoth deficits, his solutions are flawed. While he’s spent the deadlock railing against revenue proposals to appeal to the crowd that’s against raising taxes, he’s said he's still willing to do it, provided lawmakers agree to “reforms” that would harm the same people that the budget deadlock, or a budget without revenue options, would harm anyway.
It’s also worth noting that not every revenue option amounts to a simple “tax hike,”—a phrase that is little more than a scare tactic. “Pro-business” legislation generally paves the way for wealthy companies to avoid paying workers in an economic climate that’s seen the cost of living rise while wages remain stagnant. By attempting to balance the budget solely by making cuts to services that millions are forced to rely on is just a different form of “kicking the can down the road.”
"There's only so much you can do," Senator Heather Steans, told the Chicago Tribune, in a piece highlighting the many social service agencies that rely on state subsidies to provide a social safety net.
"They have been taking disproportionate cuts for many years because of the circumstances of our budget."