Rauner dodges question on funding state’s most needy

SHARE Rauner dodges question on funding state’s most needy

Gov. Bruce Rauner talks said he’s optimistic a state budget deal can be worked out by May 31. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

Gov. Bruce Rauner on Sunday dodged the question of whether he will sign a bill on his desk that provides $700 million in emergency funding for groups that provide social services to the state’s most vulnerable residents.

“These short-term fixes aren’t really where we should focus our time,” he said, characterizing the legislation as a “short-term Band-Aid.”

“If our businesses are more competitive, we’ll grow our tax revenues, we’ll grow our tax base and we’ll become more competitive and we can afford to become more compassionate and we’ll have the money to fund our human services for our most vulnerable,” Rauner said at a manufacturing plant in Bedford Park.

Steve Brown, spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, said Sunday that Rauner signed a similarly structured higher education funding billin recent weeks, so logic would point toward Rauner also signing off on social service funding.

“We’ve attempted to work with the governor since he was sworn in in a professional and cooperative way,” Brown said. “His current plan ismoving money from regular families to the 1 percenters.”

Budget stalemate erodes interest in some Illinois colleges More coverage of the Illinois state budget impasse

“I’m excited. I’m optimistic,” Rauner said about work being done to reach a budget deal with nine days left in the General Assembly’s spring session.

State Rep. Patti Bellock, R-Hinsdale, the deputy minority leader in the House, said earlier this month that a bipartisan group of legislators formed by Rauner was meeting daily for several hours at a time to hammer out a proposal.

“They’re full-force working on trying to come up with a budget, in line item after line item after line item, and I haven’t seen that in a year and a half,” Bellock told a City Club of Chicago audience.

On Sunday, Brown said “there’s been good discussions there.”

Lawmakers will have to go into a costly special session if they don’t reach a budget by the end of May.

“All we can do is keep trying,” said Rauner, who has refused to sign a budget without pro-business reforms, leaving Illinois without a spending framework for nearly 11 months.

Rauner laughed when asked about Madigan’s suggestion that the pro-business reforms — such as changes to workers’ compensation and collective-bargain rights — are part of a personal agenda Rauner is trying to carry out.

“That’s so wrong,” he said. “That’s just fundamentally wrong. This is not my agenda. This is the agenda of the people of Illinois.”

Rauner also repeated what he has said in the past: that many Democrats agree with his reform platform in private but have yet to voice their support in public.

“Most of them, so far, are only willing to say it privately, but they’re coming together and they’re talking to their leaders and they’re working in good faith, so I’m encouraging them,” Rauner said. “I don’t want to get out in front of them, but I’m encouraging them, please stand up and do what you say in private you know is right, you know is the right thing to do, let’s get a grand compromise.”

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