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Despite Nearly 2 Years Without A Budget, Rauner Gives 3rd Budget Address

By aaroncynic in News on Feb 15, 2017 9:45PM

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner delivered his third state budget address Wednesday, despite the fact that the state is going on nearly two years with no budget.

“For decades, our state passed unsustainable budgets, spent money we didn’t have, borrowed and taxed to chase the spending… and drove job creators out of state,” said Rauner, after he opened the speech by quoting Lincoln.

Rauner lightly praised the legislature for attempts its made to work toward an agreement on the budget impasse. Then, he laid out his plans for ending the impasse, which include being open to income and sales tax increases, a permanent property tax freeze, a hard cap on spending, worker’s compensation reform and term limits. But while the governor made attempts to appear as if political aisles had been crossed, several bouts of open laughter in the chamber during some points of his speech highlighted what’s still a very broad divide.

“This isn’t about pointing fingers or assigning blame,” said Rauner, who also urged both Republicans and Democrats not to “run to the media” to say the opposite party has “never passed a balanced budget.” “We are where we are.”

Rauner has been pushing the ‘grand bargain,’ between Republicans and Democrats, which would entail accepting worker’s compensation reforms and a property tax freeze with an increase in state income and sales taxes.

“The final result must be a good deal for taxpayers and job creators: a grand bargain that truly balances the budget once and for all, and really moves the needle when it comes to job creation,” Rauner said.

While he said he was willing to accept sales tax increases in some areas, he said he would not accept tax hikes on groceries or medicine.

Rauner also proposed increases for MAP grant and early childhood education funding, a $200 million increase in transportation funding, and training and hiring additional state police officers which he said would allow the ISP to “send more patrols to the Chicago area expressways to counter the violence that has spilled over on to the highways.”

But while he might’ve tried to appear somewhat of a populist, (again dropping dozens of ‘g’s from words like he does in many of his public speeches) Democratic lawmakers and others saw Rauner’s speech as another in a very long line of attempts to justify forcing his “turnaround agenda” on Illinoisans.

In addition to raucous laughter at several of Rauner’s claims, Democrats taped up a handful of signs in the chamber that read “Rauner budget = fake news.”

Rauner had to pause his speech briefly when the teleprompter malfunctioned. “Anyone have a good story?” he asked, and later joked that the “Speaker said it was the Russians.”

Representative Emanuel Chris Welch later took a second dig at the governor on Twitter to blame the teleprompter woes on what he called “alternative facts.”

Rauner’s speech was also roundly criticized by a multitude of labor and other community groups.

“The only promise the Governor has kept is that he would create a crisis in Illinois, which he has accomplished by refusing to pass a balanced budget,” said Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery. “Social services are turning people away and young people are abandoning their dreams because they have no access to college due to his cuts to student aid.”

The group Common Cause Illinois, which helped push Automatic Voter Registration that Rauner vetoed and is now backing Senator Daniel Biss’s bill to create a small donor public financing system, “commended” Rauner for calling out politicians beholden to special interests. “Yet, the Governor has a track record of personally making multi-million dollar political donations to influence our elections and stopping good policy recommendations,” it said in a statement.

United Working Families, a progressive PAC, called Rauner’s ‘Grand Bargain’ a “a Raw Deal for the 99%.”

“Bruce Rauner says he is an 'outsider' who wants to shake things up, but he's just another political boss looking out for his friends and donors,” said the group. “Today was no budget address, but a 'non-budget' address made up of the same stale ideas and recycled propaganda that got us into this mess in the first place.”

The Responsible Budget Coalition called the speech a "missed opportunity for the governor to lead."

"The human toll resulting from the governor’s failed leadership is widespread and well-documented," the coalition said in a statement. "Instead of providing leadership, Governor Rauner today attempted to shift blame and made excuses. Our state
needs the chief executive to show leadership in this crisis, not deflect responsibility."