Several Democratic lawmakers issued criticisms following Gov. Bruce Rauner's State of the State address Wednesday amid Illinois' ongoing budget stalemate.
House Speaker Michael Madigan, Rauner's primary political adversary, said passing a budget is the top priority for Illinois legislators. He said improving the state’s business climate is also a priority, but criticized elements of Rauner’s pro-business agenda.
“House Democrats reject the idea that the only way to create jobs in Illinois is to cut wages and strip away workplace protections in order to pad the profits of big corporations,” the speaker said in a statement Wednesday. “Instead, we will advance an agenda of positive economic reforms that improve the business climate without hurting the middle class.”
“Under my direction, the House will begin a through vetting of proposals that will enable us to create jobs while also lifting up and helping the middle class and struggling families around our state,” Madigan added.
Several other House Democrats also responded to Rauner’s speech, with Rep. Lou Lang adding that the budget impasse has adversely affected the state’s "most fragile citizens."
“An honest assessment of the state of our state needs to acknowledge how difficult the past two years have been,” Lang said. "Illinois has gone 19 months without a full budget. The lack of a budget has completely reversed progress in paying our unpaid bills.”
"What had been a backlog totaling about $4.5 billion when Gov. Rauner’s term began has now grown to over $10 billion and grows every single day,” Lang added.
Lang claimed Rauner’s economic proposals have only attempted to accomplish growth “through punishing the middle class” by cutting protections for injured workers and restricting collective bargaining rights. The Democrat also pushed for improvements to the state’s public colleges and universities, which have suffered considerably during the stalemate.
Rep. Cheri Bustos, who is considered a prospective Democratic gubernatorial candidate for 2018, called Rauner’s first years in office “an epic failure that has pushed our state to an unprecedented crisis point.”
“Under his downturn agenda, our state’s most vulnerable citizens are unable to count on services they should be able to take for granted, including domestic violence shelters, home health assistance or child-care assistance for low-income households,” Bustos said in a statement. “More than ever, Illinois needs a leader in the Governor’s Mansion.”
“I urge Rauner to put aside his ideological war on working families to do the job he was elected to do and pass a budget,” she added.
Comptroller Susana Mendoza criticized Rauner’s inability to pass a balanced budget Wednesday.
“Take all the governor’s ‘alternative facts’ out of his speech and the State of the State is: Leaderless,” Mendoza said in a statement. “He said he’s ‘offered many proposals to achieve a truly balanced budget.’ Where are those proposals?”
“Article 8, Sec: 2 of the state Constitution gives one very clear direction to the governor: He must prepare a balanced budget and submit it to the General Assembly,” Mendoza added. “Because he has failed to do that for two years, people around this state are suffering."
Following Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Mayor Rahm Emanuel called on Rauner to sign a bill to fund Chicago’s municipal and laborers retirement systems, which was approved by the Illinois legislature with bipartisan support.
“I would ask the governor to be consistent with the spirit and the words he expressed today,” Emanuel told reporters.
“He gave a speech about bipartisanship, there's a product that is bipartisan," Emanuel added. “I hope it would warrant a signature, not a veto.”
Emanuel also criticized Rauner’s first term in office, pointing to the state's growing backlog of unpaid bills and the amount of Illinoisans fleeing the state.