What to Watch For as Rauner Delivers Annual Budget Speech

NBC 5 will live stream Gov. Rauner's budget address here beginning at 12 p.m.

NOTE: NBC 5 will live stream Gov. Rauner's budget address beginning at 12 p.m.

Gov. Bruce Rauner is set to give lawmakers his spending plan for next fiscal year Wednesday, even though the protracted budget battle over the current year isn't close to playing out.

Illinois is in its eighth month without a budget, and is running up a huge tab because the state has been ordered by courts to keep many essential services running,

The sticking points in the Republican governor's battle with the Democrats haven't changed: He wants to overhaul term limits, change how legislative districts are drawn and curb union power. Democrats say what Rauner wants needs to be debated separately from the budget.

Here are some things to watch for in Rauner's budget address Wednesday:


One lingering question is whether lawmakers and the governor will create a two-year budget or handle each year — this delayed year and the 2016-2017 fiscal year — separately.

Rauner has not offered any hints on how he plans to proceed, but lawmakers involved in the budget-writing process have raised the possibility of having a two-year budget. They'll expect some direction from the governor when he gives his speech.

Whatever happens, Rauner emphasizes that he's taking a long view, but has divulged few details — other than to say that he realizes the changes he wants will be hard to achieve.

"We're going to talk about the change that's needed so we can actually have truly balanced budgets in the future," he said last week. "That's what we're going to talk about."


Rauner's proposal will also address education funding, calling for more support for public schools. According to an excerpt of his speech, provided by his office, he will tell lawmakers that the state "must make the education of our children our top priority."

His office says he plans to call for a Republican-sponsored measure that allocates $393 million for early childhood education, an increase of $75 million. Rauner also wants to increase the amount of money that the state budgets on average per district, but his office did not release figures.

Without a budget in place, it remains to be seen how the state will increase education funding. However, Rauner wants lawmakers to focus on the topic anyway.

"No matter how this session unfolds send that education bill to my desk," he plans to say in his address.


Rauner has said in recent months that he thinks the key is to get Illinois' finances out of the red.

Illinois faces a roughly $5 billion budget deficit this year, and its unpaid bill backlog could reach almost $26 billion by 2020 if current revenue and spending policies continue.

One of Rauner's favorite talking points is that if Illinois' economy grew at the national average during the past 15 years, the state would've collected $19 billion more to invest on things such as schools and infrastructure.

"We've got to become a growth state — pro-business, pro-agriculture, pro-investment. And we've got to shrink our wasteful spending and our bureaucracy," Rauner told the Illinois Pork Producers' meeting Tuesday.

Expect to hear that line again Wednesday.

He's also used the same phrase to swipe at the individual income tax increase that Democrats passed in 2011 and ended last year, saying that it would've been unnecessary if the state's economy was more robust.


Rauner has said he will consider tax increases, provided he gets the reforms he wants. But the governor also has said Illinois would have more money to invest in social service programs and higher education if it was run more efficiently.

Lately, he's unveiled plans he says will save money by consolidating Illinois' information technology departments and streamlining how the state buys goods and services. Rauner said that reducing the time it takes to buy products could save the state $514 million a year.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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