Gov. Bruce Rauner hosted a Facebook Live Tuesday afternoon, voicing his frustration about the state’s nearly two-year stalemate in the lead-up to his annual budget address Wednesday.
"I am the most frustrated person in the state that we haven’t been able to work with the General Assembly to get a balanced budget passed,” Rauner said. "We need to pass it now.”
Although many vital state functions are still being funded through court orders and consent decrees, Illinois' health and human services and higher education continue to suffer as a result of the impasse, leaving many of the most vulnerable Illinoisans in a precarious position.
Negotiations between Rauner and House Speaker Michael Madigan, the governor's primary political foe, stalled in December after the speaker failed to put forth a budget proposal at the governor's request.
However, there's now a glimmer of hope amid the crisis. Members of the Illinois Senate, led by Senate President John Cullerton and Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, are proposing a bipartisan budget compromise that would break up the gridlock in Springfield. Rauner lauded the effort Tuesday, noting the state’s dire fiscal condition.
“When you combine our unpaid pensions, our unpaid bills and our bonded debt, where we’re borrowing in the bond market to fund different things in government, our debt is roughly $180 billion in total,” he said.
The state's ongoing budget battle has largely hinged on Rauner's turnaround agenda, which has been referred to as pro-business and anti-union. Nevertheless, the governor has recentlly taken a backseat in budget negotiations, giving Senate leaders space to hammer out their "grand compromise."
Rauner said he will give his feedback on the Senate budget package during Wednesday’s speech, noting that he wants a “bipartisan, centrist compromise.”
“They’re taking on the changes we need,” Rauner said. “I applaud them, I’m cheering for them and I want to encourage them in every way I can.”
As expected, the governor continued to push elements of his beleaguered turnaround agenda Tuesday, including term limits, redistricting reform, pension reform, workers' compensation reform and a property tax freeze. In addition, Rauner outlined a developing plan for a revamped school funding formula.
The former businessman claimed “the system’s broken” in Illinois, noting that the state needs tax reform to grow the economy and add jobs.
“That’s the key,” he said, “More good paying jobs to the state of Illinois. Then we’ll have balanced budgets. Then we’ll have a better future for everybody and that’s what we’re negotiating with the Senate right now trying to get reforms, changes to the system so we can grow more jobs, bring down our property taxes, which are the highest in America, and have balanced budgets for the long term.”
During last year’s budget address, Rauner struck a similar tone, pushing for a balanced budget while touting elements of his agenda and calling for a “grand compromise.” He also slammed Democratic proposals to raise taxes without making cuts.
“Democrats won’t support enough spending cuts to live within our current revenues, and you won’t vote to raise taxes to cover your deficit spending unless Republicans agree to support your tax hike,” Rauner said last February. “I won’t support new revenue unless we have major structural reforms to grow more jobs and get more value for taxpayers.”
However, Rauner noted Tuesday that he would be willing to make certain tax increases to create new revenue for the state. He also credited the Illinois House’s bipartisan effort to pass a property tax freeze, encouraging members of the Senate to do the same so he can sign the measure into law.
Much like Tuesday, Rauner seemed frustrated during last year’s budget address.
“The people of Illinois are sick and tired of this,” he said. “They want us to work together, not watch another pointless cycle of votes and vetoes. The people have been waiting long enough."
“I stand ready to negotiate with each and every one of you — 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” he added.