Gov. Bruce Rauner penned an article Wednesday calling on Illinois legislators to work together towards a bipartisan solution to the state’s budget issues.
Illinois has been without a budget since July of last year. The impasse has been typified by an ongoing battle between Rauner and his Democratic counterparts over his pro-business Turnaround Agenda.
Illinois lawmakers reconvened in Springfield this week following a March break, although there is no legislation on the docket slated for committee hearings related to the state's budget impasse.
Rauner voiced a pressing need to begin negotiations immediately on a bipartisan, balanced budget that consists of reforms, cost reductions and revenue.
“We have all been disappointed in the lack of action on the crises facing our state,” Rauner said. “Now is the opportunity to put partisan differences aside and work together on solutions for the people of Illinois.”
He is now calling for meetings between the state's top legislative leaders- Republican Senate Minotiry Leader Christine Radogno, Republican House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, Democratic Senate President Tom Cullerton and Democratic Speaker of the House Mike Madigan- after claiming for weeks that such meetings would be unproductive.
In Rauner's piece, he called on his colleagues to create a short-term plan for the issues facing the state’s higher education and social services. He also called for a long term plan to create a balanced budget coupled with reforms to grow the economy.
Rauner also touched on House and Senate legislation dedicated to funding the Monetary Award Program. This legislation would help to alleviate the financial burden on beleaguered public colleges and universities.
The lack of MAP funding for the Illinois' public colleges and universities has cost the state over $72 million, according to data provided by the schools. Last month, the Illinois Institute of Technology asked students to repay money they received during the fall semester. This week, Columbia University announced that they would not fund MAP grants for the 2016-17 school year.
The governor also called for the consideration of bipartisan proposals to aid other beleaguered state public colleges and universities like Chicago State, Eastern Illinois, Western Illinois and Harper College.
In addition to this, Rauner proposed using pension reform to fund “vital services.”
“These spending proposals aren’t empty promisies- they are linked to key government reforms that generate taxpayer savings; and they would provide universities, community colleges, students and providers the assurances they need to plan for the months ahead,” Rauner said.
But, Rauner insisted that continuing to pass spending bills that can’t be funded gives false hope to Illinoisans and simply exacerbates the original problem.
He also touched on the need to bolster state support for K-12 schools and to fix the funding formula. Although, Rauner admits that it will take time to bring together all the parties to negotiate a “long-term, fair and equitable agreement”, the governor alluded to a plan to increase funding for next year.
Democratic state Sen. Andy Manar introduced a revamped proposal for the state's school funding formula. The plan would allow education funding to rely less on property taxes and would ensure that no school districts lose money.
"Much of what we are proposing in our new bill are ideas and concepts the governor has traveled the state and has talked about extensively," Manar said at a news conference.
Rauner's administration said it would review Manar's latest proposal.
Rauner concluded his piece, admitting that the “impasse has lasted long enough” and that it will take bipartisan effort to create a balanced budget for the state.
“It certainly won’t be easy, but let’s be optimistic and persistent so that we can get this done- we owe it to the people we serve,” Rauner said. “Let’s get to work.”