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Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017 12:08 am

Polar opposites respond to Rauner budget

Gov. Bruce Rauner
PHOTO BY PATRICK YEAGLE

 

The Illinois Legislative Black Caucus (ILBC) condemned Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget address, claiming the speech was undemocratic. Meanwhile, the Illinois Policy Institute noted Rauner is holding his ground against proposed tax increases.

Immediately after Rauner’s proposal on Feb. 15, the ILBC held a press conference at the Capitol. “This is a theoretical budget address based on fake math. Rauner offered brutal cuts to our state, social services, human services, seniors, schools and higher education programs,” said Rep. Carol Ammons, D-Champaign. “The governor’s tunnel vision has got us to the point where it sounds like a constant drum beat every time he takes the podium.”

Rauner’s pushed for hallmarks of his Turnaround Agenda, including a permanent property tax freeze, term limits and workers’ compensation reforms. Additionally, he implored lawmakers not to raise taxes on groceries, medicines and retirement incomes. However, Rauner’s FY18 proposal shows a deficit of $4.6 billion, with $37.3 billion in spending compared to $32.7 billion in revenue. “I’m just a little numb because the governor’s speech fell short once again of addressing the serious issues that we are facing in our state,” said Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood. “I was hoping by now he understood his constitutional responsibilities in providing a balanced budget. However, that has not been the case.”

According to Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Chicago Heights, the state loses $11 million a day because of no budget. “When we restrict these dollars and close down our nonprofit organizations, our schools and our economic centers of activity, then we need to understand the economics of this,” said Hutchinson.

Michael Lucci, vice president of policy at the Illinois Policy Institute (IPI), had a different assessment of Rauner’s address. “During his two years in office, Gov. Rauner has held the line on tax increases that are not accompanied by reform,” said Lucci. “The governor needs to continue to hold his ground on this. A tax hike without reform is not what the people of Illinois deserve.”

 Rauner praised the efforts of Senate President John Cullerton and Minority Leader Christine Radogno’s “grand bargain” proposal, a bipartisan package of bills designed to end the budget crisis. “Senate President Cullerton, Leader Radogno and Senate lawmakers have shown tremendous leadership in bringing all parties together to find common ground on a combination of spending cuts, revenue and changes that will create jobs and ensure long-term balanced budgets,” said Rauner. “Standing here three weeks ago, I encouraged them to keep working, to never give up, and they have done just that.”

Lucci was critical of the “grand bargain,” however, stating that the proposal treats taxpayers like an ATM machine. “I think it is too easy in the Statehouse for politicians to say, ‘We’ve got this problem, so let’s raise taxes.’ We did that in 2011. And what happened was people got out of this state rapidly,” said Lucci. “Every time there is a problem in Springfield, every time the budget doesn’t work, lawmakers have a solution, and it’s taking money from taxpayers like an endless ATM.”

The IPI published its “2018 Budget Solution” report in January, offering suggestions to balance the budget without tax hikes. A three-phased tax reform plan, such as freezing property taxes for five years, eliminating state subsidies for local governments and eradicating state mandates to give back spending control to local governments, was recommended. According to the IPI, the proposals could save the state $3.4 billion in spending. “Fake reforms with massive tax increases will harm residents far worse than no deal at all,” said Lucci. “The state desperately needs to address its out-of-control spending for it to move Illinois’ finances forward.”  
 
Alex Camp is an editorial intern for Illinois Times. He is pursuing his master’s degree at University of Illinois Springfield. Contact him at intern@illinoistimes.com.

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